Trader Joe’s Workers Vote to Unionize at a Second Store



Workers at a Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis voted on Friday to unionize, adding a second unionized store to the more than 500 locations of the supermarket chain.

Employees at a Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts voted to unionize last month, part of a trend of recent union victories involving service workers at companies like Starbucks, Apple and Amazon.

The Minneapolis vote was 55 to 5, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which held the election.

The Minneapolis workers voted to join Trader Joe’s United, the same independent union that represents workers in Hadley, Mass. Workers at a third Trader Joe’s store, in Colorado, have filed for a union election, but the labor board has not yet authorized a vote or set an election date.

In a statement referring to the election results in Minneapolis, a Trader Joe’s spokeswoman, Nakia Rohde, said, “While we are concerned about how this new rigid legal relationship will impact Trader Joe’s culture, we are prepared to immediately begin discussions with their collective bargaining representative to negotiate a contract.”

Sarah Beth Ryther, a Trader Joe’s worker in Minneapolis who was involved in the organizing campaign, said her co-workers had been motivated in part by dissatisfaction with pay and benefits, issues that helped prompt the union campaign in Massachusetts. Workers have complained that the company has made its benefits less generous in recent years, though some benefits have improved more recently.

But Ms. Ryther said she and her colleagues were also concerned that the store, which is in an area where some residents struggle with drug dependency and mental health challenges, appeared not to have protocols or systems in place to handle certain emergencies. She cited a person who came into the store last fall with what appeared to be a gunshot wound and collapsed into her arms.

Police officers arrived quickly, Ms. Ryther said, but Trader Joe’s did little to address the aftermath, such as explaining to workers what had happened. Several days passed before she was told that she could collect workers’ compensation while taking time off to deal with the trauma, she said.

Trader Joe’s did not respond to a request for comment on Ms. Ryther’s account of the workers’ complaints and the store’s conditions, but, in her statement, Ms. Rohde said the company was “committed to responding quickly when circumstances change to ensure we are doing the right thing to support our crew.”

In March 2020, the company’s chief executive, Dan Bane, sent a letter to employees referring to “the current barrage of union activity that has been directed at Trader Joe’s” and asserting that union advocates “clearly believe that now is a moment when they can create some sort of wedge in our company through which they can drive discontent.”

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