The Real Reason One Trader Joe's Employee Was Fired After Contacting The CEO

No matter how good you've been at quarantining these past several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are you've still had dozens of interactions with grocery store employees. After hospitals and other health care facilities, grocers are right near the top of the list of essential services, and millions of grocery employees have continued showing up to work throughout the pandemic.

The risk for these workers is real. According to figures the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) sent to Mashed, 138 grocery workers have died of COVID-19, and more than 31,000 have been infected or exposed to the virus that causes the disease. This includes more than 800 cases from at least 137 grocery stores in the Los Angeles area, just in the months of November and December (via NBC4 News).

That's why the union and some people on Twitter were angry over Trader Joe's decision to fire an employee who asked the chain's CEO for stricter COVID-19 measures. Employee Ben Bonnema's request was based on recommendations from scientists, who The New York Times notes have called for the government to take more action to reduce the airborne spread of COVID-19. "Trader Joe's firing an essential grocery worker who bravely spoke out about COVID dangers in stores is a blatant example of corporate intimidation meant to silence workers across the country," the UFCW said. (The UFCW had just praised Trader Joe's for doubling its hourly pandemic "hero pay" to $4 an hour.)

Fired Trader Joe's employee is fighting to get his job back

Bonnema, a Trader Joe's employee in New York, sent his letterĀ to CEO Dan Bane, asking for better air filtration and stricter customer face mask policies at Trader Joe's stores (via The Washington Post). Bonnema said no one should be allowed in the store without a mask for any reason, even disability. Trader Joe's can shop for customers with disabilities that prevent them from wearing masks, Bonnema said. He also suggested a "three strikes policy" that would make it easier to kick customers out of the store if they won't wear masks.

"We put our lives on the line every day by showing up to work," Bonnema wrote. "Please, show up for us by adopting these policies." But instead of a show of support from Trader Joe's top brass, Bonnema got a termination notice, which he also posted to Twitter. "It is clear that you do not understand our values," the notice said. "As a result, we are no longer comfortable having you work for Trader Joe's."

Some people on Twitter rallied to Bonnema's defense. "It is clear that I also do not understand their values. Therefore, I will never shop there again," replied one supporter (via Fox 5 DC). "You did the heroic & right thing, @BenBonnema." Bonnema reportedly believes Trader Joe's fired him illegally and is working with a lawyer to get his job back.