The Saga of Organizing at Trader Joe's

Published on May 15, 2024
Store front image of Trader Joe's

           On July 28th, 2022 in Hadley, Massachusetts a group of Trader Joe’s workers started an independent labor union, Trader Joe’s United, having seen a decline in hours and wages. Events during COVID became the last straw for  the workers  at the Hadley Store. The unionization efforts  spread over the country to cities in states such as Minnesota, Kentucky, and California.

Many workers are facing unlawful terminations. An employee, Stephen “Steve” Andrade, was unlawfully terminated from a Trader Joe’s store in Boston, MA. According to Andrade, Trader Joe’s management had terminated him because he left a power saw back at the store, despite the fact that it did not belong to him, but to a prior crew member that had worked on the store before Andrade started . Additionally, Andrade felt he was personally targeted since he was an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights.

TJU faced retaliation from Trader Joe’s company. On January 13, 2024, Trader Joe’s Company sued Trader Joe’s United for trademark infringement. The Trader Joe’s company accuses the union of profiting on the company’s trademark symbol. However, the claim was dismissed by the U.S. District Court Judge Hernan D. Vera who said that there was an existing labor dispute and the claim had no merit.

The National Labor Relations Board has criticized Trader Joe’s anti-union tactics. According to the HuffPost on January 13, 2024, the NLRB declared that TJU’s organizing efforts were legitimate and the company was violating workers’ right to organize.

Workers at multiple stores are facing heavy union busting efforts by the Trader Joe’s company and local management. These efforts range from intense surveillance tactics to job termination threats. Trader Joe’s workers are fighting for simple benefits and a decent workplace environment. A Trader Joe’s store located in Oakland, California had won unionization in April 2023, and the workers at the Rockridge neighborhood store are now affiliated with TJU.

Dominique Bernardo, a crew member at the Rockridge store, was cleaning rat feces out of each aisle. The store disregarded her pleas to take care of the rat problem for two years. Regular customers returned rodent-damaged items back to the store. After becoming part of the TJU campaign, Bernardo hopes to create more interpersonal relationships with her peers.

To support Trader Joe’s workers in their unionization efforts, you can take action by following the union’s Instagram page. They share ways to help and raise awareness. You can also spread the word, contact local elected representatives to support local workers during their organizing, or sign petitions. Your support can make a big difference in promoting fair labor practices at Trader Joe’s.