Trader Joe’s workers in Minneapolis won their union election by a landslide on Friday, becoming the second location of the popular grocery chain to form a union just over two weeks after workers voted to form the chain’s first.
Workers won their union 55 to 5 on Friday, or with over 90 percent of the vote. They join workers in Hadley, Massachusetts, in forming a union with the newly formed Trader Joe’s United, an independent union modeled in part after Amazon Labor Union.
The workers also join the wave of other unionizations at major retailers that have swept the country in recent months, including at Starbucks, Apple, and more. Similarly to those campaigns, Trader Joe’s workers’ union effort has the potential to rapidly spread; the workers say that they’ve been talking about unionizing with Trader Joe’s employees at locations across the country. The fact that Trader Joe’s United has experienced such success as an independent union is groundbreaking.
The union rejoiced after the vote, saying that it was a hard-fought effort.
“Our landslide victory shows just how strongly we believe that Crew members from stores across the country can work together to gain the pay, benefits and working conditions we deserve,” the union wrote in a statement. “We’ve had conversations in coffee shops, backyards, and living rooms, outside of the store on nights after long shifts, and on walks by the Mississippi River.”
“Together, we’ve asked really basic questions, like, what is a union? And harder questions, like what, in granular and concrete terms, is our long term vision for Trader Joe’s workers?” the union continued. “This story, our story, where everyday folks come together in break rooms and at rallies and form brand new unions and struggle together … will continue to be told, because we will continue to work together for a more equitable future.”
Trader Joe’s says that it is “concerned” about the unionization but is “prepared to immediately begin discussions with their collective bargaining representative to negotiate a contract.”
Minneapolis workers say that safety concerns are part of why they organized to form a union — Vice reported on an incident where one of the workers discovered someone who was shot in the head in the vestibule of their store, but management didn’t address the issue or shut down the store.
Workers say that their requests over the years for provisions like safety reforms and better pay and health care benefits “have really gotten nowhere” with management. The firing of Kimberly Thompson, a 13-year veteran of the store, ultimately pushed workers to go public with their union campaign in June.
Since then, workers say they’ve faced union busting from the company, which, like Starbucks, has hired notorious union-buster Littler Mendelson in response to the union effort. Late last month, just before the Hadley election, the company announced that it was giving workers across the country a $10 an hour pay bump on Sundays and holidays — but only in stores that weren’t publicly unionizing.
The company claimed that it was following federal labor laws in announcing the new policy, but workers were skeptical. Indeed, the company’s reasoning was similar to that of Starbucks, which announced a raise only for workers in stores that weren’t unionizing in May. Starbucks also claimed that the policy change fell in line with federal labor laws, but labor experts say that it is illegal to purposely exclude unionizing stores from a wage raise.
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