This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on July 28, 2022. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons license.
Workers at a Massachusetts Trader Joe’s on Thursday voted to become the first of the supermarket chain’s more than 500 locations to unionize, a historic development that comes amid a nationwide labor organizing wave.
Employees at the Trader Joe’s in Hadley, a suburb of Springfield, voted 45-31 to form a union, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
“WE WON!!! Today, Trader Joe’s Hadley became the first unionized Trader Joe’s location, ever,” the new union, Trader Joe’s United, tweeted. “This victory is historic, but not a surprise. Since the moment we announced our campaign, a majority of the crew have enthusiastically supported our union, and despite the company’s best efforts to bust us, our majority has never wavered.”
Gabrielle, who works at the Hadley store, explained that she was voting for a union because “our crew needs to be represented by an entity that is solely dedicated to our best interests.”
“Our worker-led union ensures that we are protected and properly compensated—on our terms,” she added.
Another Hadley crew member, Maeg, said she was voting “yes” because “we, the crew, are what keep this company running and profitable. It’s time for us to sit down at the negotiating table as equals with Trader Joe’s and create a contract that protects and takes care of us as workers.”
Labor unions and organizers hailed the Hadley vote, with Starbucks Workers United congratulating the store’s crew on its “incredible and groundbreaking victory.”
Wen Zhuang, a member of the NewsGuild of New York and Emergency Workplace Organizing, called Thursday’s vote “amazing.”
“Trader Joe’s has a deep history of simply atrocious union busting, firing of organizers, and lots of other shenanigans,” she tweeted. “What happened here will most definitely be replicated.”
US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among the progressive politicians who saluted the newly unionized Trader Joe’s workers.
“Now is the time for management to recognize the union and to negotiate a fair contract with decent benefits and safe working conditions,” the two-time democratic socialist presidential candidate tweeted.
A Trader Joe’s spokesperson said the company is “prepared to immediately begin discussions with union representatives for the employees at this store to negotiate a contract.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) tweeted that “workers in Hadley just made history by becoming the first Trader Joe’s ever to form a union. They join a growing nationwide movement of workers standing up to demand better working conditions and fair pay.”
The Washington Post reports:
The union’s victory in western Massachusetts follows a wave of successful union drives this year at high-profile employers that have long evaded unionization, such as Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and REI. Union victories can produce a ripple effect across employers and industries, emboldening new workers to organize. Petitions for union elections this year are on track to hit their highest level in a decade, as a hot labor market has afforded workers more leverage over their employers.
In just over six months’ time, Starbucks went from having one unionized location in Buffalo, New York to 200 stores with unionized workforces.
Other Trader Joe’s crews have taken notice of the Hadley vote, and workers from at least two other stores have already launched their own union drives. More Perfect Union has reported that Trader Joe’s is improving pay, perks, and working conditions in the face of the increased unionization activity.