Trader Joe’s Union Wins Election At Oakland Store

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Workers at another Trader Joe’s grocery store formed a union this week, making it the fourth of the company’s locations to organize in the past year.

The union, Trader Joe’s United, said it won an election at the company’s Rockridge store in Oakland, California, following a ballot count held by the National Labor Relations Board, with workers voting 73 to 53 in favor of unionizing.

On the opposite coast, the union said it narrowly lost an election at the company’s Essex Crossing store in New York City that ended in a tie, 76 in favor and 76 against. A union must win 50% of the votes, plus one, in order to become the workers’ representative.

The NLRB could not immediately confirm the ballot tallies on Friday morning, and Trader Joe’s could not be reached for comment. The company would have a week to challenge the results in Oakland.

If those results stand, there would now be four stores total that have unionized since last July, including locations in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Kentucky. Trader Joe’s has contested the results of the Kentucky vote, but the labor board has not yet issued a decision in the case.

The California-based company has more than 500 stores throughout the U.S. Although unions are common among longtime grocers like Kroger and Albertsons, none of Trader Joe’s stores had union representation until the Trader Joe’s United campaign began in Hadley, Massachusetts.

Trader Joe’s United, which is not affiliated with an established national union, celebrated the Oakland victory on Twitter late Thursday. In a statement on the the Essex Crossing results, the organizing committee there said “the fight to unionize a NYC Trader Joe’s continues,” noting a separate union loss last year at a store in Brooklyn.

“We had endless conversations with our coworkers. We sent countless texts and phone calls, and gathered together to celebrate and connect about the future we wanted to see at work,” the group said. “But the reality is, the barriers to working people winning against corporations in this country are huge.”

Organizing efforts have percolated at Trader Joe’s for years, but none of them took hold until early in 2022, after the company announced it was slashing retirement contributions for most employees. Several workers told HuffPost the move reflected a company that had grown less generous with its workforce and strayed from its reputation as a good employer.

Trader Joe’s managed to stay union-free until the Massachusetts election last year.

John Greim via Getty Images

Pro-union employees are pushing for higher wages, guaranteed benefits and more control over scheduling and safety protocols.

Trader Joe’s has opposed the organizing effort, and the union said managers in both the New York and Oakland stores had been encouraging workers to vote “no” in the runup to their election.

The union has filed a number of unfair labor practice charges accusing the company of violating workers’ rights, including by pressuring pro-union workers to remove their union pins. Trader Joe’s has accused union supporters of unlawfully pressuring workers to vote for the union in Kentucky. The labor board has not yet ruled on those cases.

HuffPost reported last summer that workers at the Trader Joe’s wine shop in New York City were about to go public with a union campaign when the company abruptly closed the store. Workers had intended to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Trader Joe’s denied that it closed the store due to workers organizing.

The company previously told HuffPost it was “concerned” about the “rigid legal relationship” a union might bring, but said it would abide by the results of any elections and bargain in good faith with its workers.

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