Trader Joe's Union Efforts Dealt A Blow After Brooklyn Store Votes 'No'

Grocery store chain Trader Joe's has been at the center of union discussions for years, but efforts ramped up with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Times reports. Back in 2020, workers drafted a petition for hazard pay and managers were told to discourage union efforts amongst employees. Employees were reportedly displeased with the way the grocery store chain handled the pandemic, as they were only offered a single week of paid sick leave and safety measures were inconsistent across locations.

Two Trader Joe's locations in Minnesota — the Hadley and Minneapolis locations — unionized earlier this year after elections revealed that a majority of both stores' employees were pro-union. And Trader Joe's United, a union specifically for employees of the grocery store, was launched in May after the unionization of the Hadley location

A Trader Joe's location in Brooklyn, New York had been poised as the next store to unionize. Unfortunately, after the election was held, the vote fell short.

Employees voted against unionizing

The Williamsburg, Brooklyn Trader Joe's location had filed to unionize back at the end of September, according to Perfect Union. The employees at the store, which opened less than a year ago, in December 2021, according to Greenpointers, claimed they faced racial discrimination, poor working conditions, and union busting. And a Black union organizer named Jaz was reportedly fired after higher-up staff learned of efforts to unionize. The union would have provided better wages for employees, health care access, clear disciplinary guidelines, and better time off options.

Employers resisting unions may use union busting tactics, such as intimidation, promises of better conditions without a union, and hiring consultants to discourage unions (via LaborLab). And it seems that these tactics may have had an impact on the store's employees, as Trader Joe's United tweeted that a majority of the store's employees voted against unionizing. According to Grocery Dive, 94 voted "no" and 66 voted yes."

Despite the outcome, Trader Joe's United vowed to continue pressing forward with its efforts.