Trader Joe’s workers in Hadley, Massachusetts, have voted to become the first among the company’s roughly 530 locations to unionize.
Workers voted 45 to 31 to unionize, with slightly over half of the 81 employees eligible to vote casting a ballot for the union. Just over two months ago, the workers announced that they would be joining an independent union known as Trader Joe’s United, modeled after Amazon Labor Union’s effort in New York and across the country.
“This victory is historic, but not a surprise,” the union said in a statement. “Since the moment we announced our campaign, a majority of the crew have enthusiastically supported our union, and despite the company’s best efforts to bust us, our majority has never wavered.”
The union says that it now looks forward to negotiating a first contract with the company, which they say will not only help the Hadley workers but could also help workers at non-unionized locations across the U.S.
“There is no Trader Joe’s without the crew. We must embrace this challenge head on, together, and negotiate a contract that reflects the values Trader Joe’s has long claimed to espouse,” the union wrote. “But for tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, and every day after that, we will be ready to sit down and negotiate. Trader Joe’s, are you ready to join us?”
Similarly to the way that workers’ union efforts at Amazon, Starbucks and REI have spread to other locations, two other Trader Joe’s locations have filed for union elections. In the last month, workers in Minneapolis and Boulder, Colorado, have filed for union representation, though workers in Boulder are unionizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers.
As with many of the other workers unionizing national chains, the Massachusetts workers faced a union-busting campaign from the company. After they announced their union effort in May, the company hired an anti-union law firm to pressure workers to vote against the union.
Trader Joe’s United has filed several unfair labor practice allegations against the company, accusing management of illegal anti-union actions. Pro-union workers said that the company has removed public literature from the store’s common area, restricted workers from discussing working conditions and pay, and prohibited wearing union insignia while on the job.
Workers also told HuffPost this week that the company was telling workers not to vote for the union in captive audience meetings ahead of the election. Trader Joe’s United organizer Maeg Yosef said that the company pulled her off of the floor to talk about how difficult the union campaign has been on management.
“It was like [anti-union law firm] Littler Mendelson tried to make a Lifetime movie,” Yosef said. “They were really trying to play to crew members’ feelings of sympathy and pull at our heartstrings…. The implication is, because it’s been challenging for management and a union could be challenging, we should vote ‘no.’”
In response to the union vote, the company has claimed that it offers workers good benefits, compensation and working conditions.
However, workers say that the supposedly progressive company has been steadily treating its employees worse over the years, with conditions especially deteriorating when the pandemic began in 2020.
They say that the company has slashed retirement benefits and health care, while their wages have not increased as the cost of living has risen. Meanwhile, the company retracted hazard pay and increased benefits related to COVID-19 about a year into the pandemic, leaving workers feeling undervalued and endangered by exposure to the illness.