Economics/Class Relations

Famously Cheerful Trader Joe’s Workers Are Actually Unhappy and Want a Union

By Paul Blest, VICE

The grocery workers are the latest to join the revitalized labor movement, along with workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and Target.

Employees at a Trader Joe’s store in western Massachusetts are attempting to form the grocery chain’s first union, they told their CEO in a letter this weekend.

Though it’s just the latest high-profile union effort, the roots of the campaign at Trader Joe’s—and the company’s opposition to its employees forming a union—go back more than two years, as workers said in the letter.

In their letter to Trader Joe’s CEO Dan Bane, workers at the Hadley, Massachusetts, store referenced a March 2020 letter Bane wrote to employees calling then-nascent unionization efforts a “distraction” and that unions “drive discontent” at companies. In the letter, Bane wrote he was “convinced that any Crew Member who critically considers the question will conclude that being a Crew Member at Trader Joe’s beats being a ‘member’ of a union.” (Unionized employees would be both.)

At the time, Trader Joe’s workers across the country were speaking to media outlets and alleging the company was not doing enough to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But although representatives from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) spoke with employees in 2020, the New York Times reported at the time, no store ever filed for an election.

Until now.


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