Workers at a Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts have formed the grocer’s first-ever union, adding another historic victory to a string of recent victories for organized labor.
Employees at the chain’s store in Hadley, north of Springfield, voted 45 to 31 in favor of joining the new group Trader Joe’s United, according to a vote tally released online Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board. The agency has not yet certified the results.
The union’s success is all the more remarkable because Trader Joe’s United is not an established labor group with paid staff and reliable funding. Hadley store workers formed the group earlier this year with the intention of organizing on their own, with the help of labor lawyers assisting them pro bono.
The union called the victory “historic” in a statement after the vote was counted, but said the result was not surprising.
“From the time we announced our campaign, a majority of the crew has enthusiastically supported our union, and despite all the company’s best efforts to bring us down, our support has never wavered,” said the union.
Like the independent effort that organized an Amazon warehouse in New York earlier this year, Trader Joe’s campaign is another sign that many workers are eager to get together and bargain collectively in previously non-union companies. The Labor Board has seen a notable increase in union campaign petitions this year, including in a retail sector not known for its unionism.
“The company seems to be moving away from being a place where you can build a career, support your family and feel relatively safe.”
– Maeg Yosef, spokesperson for Trader Joe’s United
Maeg Yosef, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s United and an employee of the Hadley store, told HuffPost ahead of the election that workers wanted to unionize in part because their benefits had eroded during the last years. Employees learned earlier this year that the company’s 401(k) contribution would be cut in half for workers with less than 10 years of service.
“I think that’s the trend,” Yosef said in May. “The company seems to be moving away from being a place where you can build a career, support your family, and feel relatively secure for a job in the grocery industry.”
The company has a week to challenge the vote and request a hearing, but a statement from the company after the count suggested it would not. Nakia Rohde, spokeswoman for Trader Joe, said the company was “ready to immediately begin discussions with union representatives” to work out a contract for the store.
It is already clear that the organization within Trader Joe’s is not limited to Massachusetts. Workers at a store in Minneapolis filed for union election last month, saying they intended to join Trader Joe’s United. And just this week, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which already represents thousands of grocery store workers at other chains, filed a petition for an election. at Trader Joe’s in Boulder, Colorado.
Many workers weary of pandemic frustrations appear to be seeking unions to improve their jobs, taking advantage of a tight labor market that makes it harder for their employers to replace them. Starbucks workers have organized more than 200 stores in the coffee chain since December, when the first store organized in Buffalo, New York.
The NLRB reported earlier this month that election petitions had jumped 58% so far this exercise compared to 2021. The number of petitions over the nine-month period appears to be the highest since 2016.
Like Starbucks, Amazon, REI and Apple, Trader Joe’s actively opposed the Massachusetts workers’ union campaign. Shortly before the vote, the company told employees it would see some benefit improvements, including a $10-per-hour wage premium for Sunday work. And as HuffPost reported on Monday, store managers were hold group meetings this weekend in which they urged employees to vote against Trader Joe’s United.
Yosef said management told them the union campaign created a stressful atmosphere for store supervisors, who would not be part of the union. She said the talks seemed designed to “play on the sympathetic feelings of crew members and strike a chord with us.”
“It was like Little Mendelson tried to make a movie for life,” Yosef told HuffPost, referring to the union avoidance law firm.
Union members said in their statement that they planned to celebrate Thursday evening: “Tomorrow, and every day after that, we will be ready to sit down and negotiate.”
This post has been updated with Trader Joe’s comment.
The Huffington Gt