Trader Joe’s in downtown Minneapolis became the second unionized store in the United States on Friday, less than a month after its Massachusetts store became the first. One could be next, he of Boulder, Colorado, brings to the effort to unionize grocery chains across the country. There will be more in between.
This could be the start of massive union action at Trader Joe’s, where wins lead to wins and unions become a reality for some of America’s lowest paid retail and hospitality workers. .
So Trader Joe’s could be the next Starbucks.
After Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, became the first company-owned location to join the union last December, more than 215 other stores across the country have done the same. That first win set off a chain reaction of Starbucks employees working together to share notes on how to organize more locations. Workers explained the process of forming a union, shared tips with colleagues and told would-be union members what anti-union tactics to expect from the company.More Starbucks Weekly of employees are unionized, so the strategy appears to be working.
“That’s our vision. That’s what we want,” Sarah Beth Reiser, who works at Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis, told Record last week ahead of the union vote. “We’re all going through the same thing, so I’m genuinely interested in creating a bigger movement.”
Trader Joe’s is a California-based grocery chain known for having its employees wear Hawaiian shirts and offering luxury goods at low prices, and has more than 500 stores in more than 40 U.S. states. increase. Workers at his two newly organized locations say they’ve heard from peers interested in organizing in every state that has Trader Joe’s.
More than 50 years after Trader Joe’s was founded, employees say there’s a reason three separate stores came up with the idea of unionizing at about the same time. The company’s retail employees across the country face the same issues regarding worker safety, wages that are no longer competitive, and benefits that are not as good as they used to be.
“Trader Joe’s has earned a reputation for being a great place to work by taking care of us and listening to us,” said a 14-year Trader Joe’s employee who worked at a store in Massachusetts. Woody Hoaglund, who first formed the union, said: “Then it slowly started to whittle away and dropped off pretty sharply during the pandemic.”
Hoagland explained that he earns $24 an hour. This is close to the maximum amount a trader in the area where he lives can get at his Jaws store, but it is still very difficult to pay the rent. An apartment for himself and his two children. He says Trader Joe’s no longer offers a living wage because the cost of goods is rising much faster than wages. Meanwhile, in recent years, companies have minimized severance pay and raised requirements for getting medical care, but their jobs have become more dangerous thanks to the pandemic.
Of course, another big reason Trader Joe’s is now unionized is the organizing effort at Starbucks. The recent spate of successful unionizations at the coffee giant has shown that workers at Trader Joe’s can do it too.
Much like people have historically done at Starbucks, many came to work at Trader Joe’s because of its reputation as a great place to work. Like Starbucks employees, Trader Joe’s employees inadvertently became frontline workers, forming close bonds with their colleagues by sharing their first-hand experiences during the pandemic. Both Trader Joe’s and Starbucks organizers say they are trying to maintain the higher standards they set to avoid being as bad as other retailers. Even their demands are similar: better pay, better benefits, more safety measures, and a greater say in how stores are run.
A Trader Joe’s spokesperson said in an email to Record, “While we are concerned about how this new rigid legal relationship will affect the culture of Trader Joe’s “Trader Joe’s offers an industry-leading package of salaries, benefits, and flexible working conditions to all Crew Members nationwide. If the situation changes, we are committed to responding quickly to make sure we are doing the right thing to support our crew.”
Workers at Trader Joe’s and Starbucks also say unions are needed to restore worker protections lost as a highly unionized manufacturing economy has been replaced by low-wage service industries. The pandemic has brought an already bad situation to a boiling point, prompting workers to fight back. A tight labor market means workers have more leverage than in recent history. And pro-union sentiment, now is the perfect time to change things.
About 70% of ununionized workers say they join a union at their primary workplace, according to a new survey from career services site Jobcase. Of these skilled and hourly workers, 41% said he is more likely to be now than he was three years ago. A Gallup poll last year found support for unions at its highest level in nearly 60 years. And according to the National Labor Relations Commission, union filings increased 57% in the first half of fiscal 2022 compared to 2021.
However, there is a long way to go from applying for a union to actually obtaining one. First, a majority of workers in a particular store must vote for the union, which in itself is no easy task. Because the company can use the worker’s time to persuade the worker in another way. And if the organizing workers win the vote, the union and company have to negotiate a contract, which both sides have to agree to.
And while Trader Joe’s has many similarities to Starbucks, employees say both are progressive companies that have resorted to union-busting tactics, and there are differences. Trader Joe’s stores are typically much larger than Starbucks. For example, a unionized Trader Joe’s store has about 80 employees, while a typical Starbucks has about 25 employees.
The first two Trader Joe’s unions were organized under an independent union, Trader Joe’s United, just as the Amazon workers of Staten Island founded their own union. Its independent position helps these union movements avoid criticism that they are coerced from the outside. joining forces). Meanwhile, Starbucks stores are unionized under Workers United, an affiliate of the International Service Workers Union. Still, these Starbucks employees say their union is very worker-driven, even as they seek help from other unions.
But even differences can’t stop Trader Joe’s and Starbucks employees from trying to support each other’s efforts. Union members at a nearby Starbucks showed up last week to support workers at Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis, and Trader Joe’s United has been broadly supportive of Starbucks’ organizing efforts.
“They showed up for us, and we show up for them,” said Ryther.
More importantly, Trader Joe’s employees across the country are reaching out to each other, offering advice and exchanging tips, hoping that union initiatives will take off as quickly as Starbucks does.
These Trader Joe’s wins are one of several high-profile union wins this year where people don’t normally expect unions. Far-flung Apple stores and outdoor apparel retailer REI are taking advantage of the unique time to offer better conditions for U.S. workers.
Of course, their influence may last as long as employment remains difficult and the economy is doing well. But so far it seems strong.
Update, August 15th at 9am: Updated with a statement from Trader Joe’s.