Trader Joe's Has Just Formed Its First Union. Here's What To Know

Trader Joe's is beloved by its following for offering fan-favorite private-labeled products at an affordable price from a unique crew of workers who provide advice and a smile to its avid shoppers (per Kiplinger). The grocery chain is committed to its culture of employees, refraining from automated self-checkout stations and pandemic cut-backs that lessened customer experience and endangered workers' livelihoods. Despite its pledge to employees, a Trader Joe's in Hadley, Massachusetts, just became the first store to unionize (via Today).

Unionization is trending stronger than Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has seen a 58% increase in union representation filings over the past year alone and a 16% increase in claims of unfair labor practices (via Today). Trader Joe's employees seem to follow the lead of workers at big businesses like Amazon, Starbucks, and Chipotle that have been unionizing over the past few years.

Workers at the Massachusetts location joined Trader Joe's United and voted 45-31 to join the union. The newly formed labor group announced the historic win in an open letter on Twitter, stating that its efforts were focused on supporting employees according to the values that the grocery chain claims to uphold.

Employees unionize for improved conditions and benefits

From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, grocery workers deemed essential employees have been on the frontlines dealing with dangerous work conditions and a lack of basic health coverage that has carried on throughout the ongoing health crisis (via Supermarket News). Employees at the first Trader Joe's to unionize are citing workplace issues that led them to the decision.

Workers at the Hadley, Massachusetts, store voted to join Trader Joe's United to improve their health and retirement benefits package, pay rate, and safety concerns in the workplace. The labor group claims that Trader Joe's has reduced its benefits package and pandemic pay rate while weakening store health and safety measures. The group tweeted a letter stating its motivation to negotiate a contract that benefits Trader Joe's employees "instead of the company's bottom line."

A spokesperson for the popular grocery chain stated that Trader Joe's offers substantial compensation and benefits packages to employees that are competitive with other top grocer's incentives. Trader Joe's is eager to join the labor group in contract negotiations in order to stave off a domino effect at over 535 other locations, two of which are already discussing unionization.