Trader Joe’s workers unionized another store, including a Minneapolis Victory
New independent union trader Joe’s United has now won two elections in as many months, riding the momentum behind a youth campaign.
Just two weeks ago, Trader Joe’s United, an upstart labor campaign, won an election to form the grocery chain’s first union in Massachusetts. But an independent group of Trader Joe’s employees has already proven that the win was no fluke.
The union won a second election Friday at a store in downtown Minneapolis, where workers voted 55 to 5 in favor of joining Trader Joe’s United. Like their counterparts in Massachusetts, Minnesota workers are calling on the chain to come to the bargaining table to hammer out the first contract.
Trader Joe’s has resisted unionization efforts at its stores for years, but back-to-back wins could encourage more workers at the chain to bargain collectively. Organizers say they are hearing from Trader Joe’s workers across the country and plan to unionize the grocery store’s more than 500 locations.
Sarah Beth Ryther, a worker at a Minneapolis store involved in the campaign, told HuffPost before the vote that pro-union workers are feeling increasingly confident that they can take on the company.
“We’ve been talking to people all day about this movement,” Ryther said. “I think it’s about time.”
A trader who is not affiliated with the United Established Labor Group. The workers are organizing it themselves with the help of lawyers. Workers in Minneapolis joined forces with workers in Massachusetts in May after going public with their campaign.
The group’s success so far — like Starbucks Workers United and the Amazon labor union, which both recently formed the first unions at those companies — reflects a moment of opportunity for the labor movement at large after decades of decline. Today only one in 10 US workers belongs to a union, up from about one in three in the post-World War II years.
Trader Joe’s has a week to contest the Minneapolis election results. The company chose not to do so after the union’s victory in Massachusetts, saying it would immediately begin bargaining with Trader Joe’s United and was prepared to use other agreements in the grocery industry as a framework.
Unionizing the US retail space has been tough, but workers have been making progress in recent months. In addition to Starbucks, workers have also formed the first unions at REI and Apple. Although unions have dominated the grocery industry for decades — the United Food and Commercial Workers union represents hundreds of thousands of store workers — Trader Joe’s managed to keep them at bay until recently. In addition to being organized by Trader Joe’s United, the UFCW has applied for elections at Trader Joe’s stores in Boulder, Colorado.
Trader Joe’s has long had a reputation for decent wages and benefits, but many workers have complained that the California-based company has become more jaded in recent years. Management quietly notified workers in January that 401(k) contributions would be cut in half for workers with less than 10 years of service, a move many employees cited in their decision to try to unionize.
Shortly before the vote in Massachusetts, Trader Joe’s told employees it would improve some benefits, including offering premium pay for Sundays and holidays. The company did not say when asked by HuffPost whether the new provisions would apply to stores that have unionized or petitioned to hold elections.
Hannah Nybakken, who works at the Minneapolis store, told HuffPost before the election that she saw the reforms as a clear response to the organizing going on.
“We were shocked that they were willing to answer so many things that we’ve been seeing for so long, we just say ‘union,'” she said.