Trader Joe’s workers in a Massachusetts department store form a union

After the recent trend of organizing service workers in companies such as StarbucksAnd the apple And the Amazon, employees at Trader Joe’s in Hadley, Massachusetts, voted to form a union on Thursday. It is the only one of the more than 500 stores that has an official association.

The vote was 45 to 31, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election.

“From the moment we announced our campaign, the majority of the crew have enthusiastically supported our union, and despite the company’s best efforts to bring us down, the majority of us have never been shaken,” the union, known as Trader Joe’s United, said in a statement. .

It’s unclear if the union’s campaign will spread quickly to other Trader Joe’s stores, as it has done at Starbucks, where more than 200 company-owned sites have voted to join unions since December. But the supermarket chain will face at least one union vote soon – at a price Minneapolis store Next month – and shop workers in Colorado Petition about the elections this week.

The company said in a statement that it was ready to start discussions immediately. Noting that her pay, benefits, and working conditions were already better than those typically obtained by union grocery workers, she added: “We are willing to use any existing union contract of a multi-state grocery company with stores in the area, chosen by union representatives, as a template for negotiating a new structure. For the employees in this store.”

The store is located approximately 20 miles north of Springfield in western Massachusetts, an area known as The number of small colleges and University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Supporters of the Trader Joe’s union, which does not belong to an established labor organization, Cited a variety of reasons For their decision to regulate, including healthcare and retirement benefits that have become less generous over the past several years, are health and safety issues.

Some said that while encouraged by the company’s initial response to the pandemic — which included imposing masking requirements, limiting the number of customers in the store and providing a temporary pay increase of up to an additional $4 an hour — they felt the company rolled back those measures too quickly when vaccines became available. Widely available last year.

Several workers in the store fell ill with Covid-19 this spring as mask-wearing waned. The local health board had lifted a mandate for the mask in March.

at workers Submit to the union elections Last month, the company said it welcomed a fair vote and was “not interested in delaying the process in any way.” But the company tends to resist efforts to form unions, including some. At first epidemic.

At the time, the company’s CEO, Dan Payne, circulated a letter to employees noting the “current avalanche of union activity being directed at Trader Joe’s” and arguing that union advocates “clearly believe that now is the moment they can create some sort of wedge.” in our company through which they can stir up indignation.”

The workers said that two senior company officials had been in the store regularly over the past several weeks — they met the employees both one-on-one or in small groups — and suggested that workers could receive less generous benefits or have a less collaborative relationship with managers if they were union.

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“It is common practice among our leadership team to speak with crew members,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Nakia Rudd said via email.

Longtime employee and union campaign leader Mayg Yusef said that at a recent meeting she attended, the store manager and a senior official explicitly asked workers to vote “no.”

Ms Youssef said the idea that a union would make it difficult for workers to cooperate with management was “ridiculous because we are a union”. Since the union would be entirely run by the shop workers, there was no outside labor organization that could insert itself between the two sides.

Ms Youssef and the other workers began discussing the regulation last winter amid what they say is frustration that the company failed to make them aware of a state law mandating paid leave in cases of Covid-related absences. (Ms. Rudy, her spokeswoman, said she objected to the novel without specifying which part she disagreed with.)

Tony Falco, a union supporter and longtime employee, said he and his colleagues expected to fight for a contract but the union victory gave him hope. “Ultimately, it will be the early stages of making this something sustainable for my life and my co-workers,” Mr. Falco said.

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