Here's Why A Group Of Trader Joe's Employees Just Withdrew Their Union Petition

Workers at Trader Joe's are continuing to mobilize around a union campaign that saw its first election in Hadley, Massachusetts this June on account of health, safety, and scheduling concerns (per The New York Times). When a second Trader Joe's location followed suit in Minneapolis later that month, employees behind the vote argued that a union would help them secure "better safety, protection from arbitrary termination, and a voice in their workplace" (via Twitter). In July, Trader Joe's United shared the news that the Hadley vote was successful, giving way to a "landslide victory" in Minneapolis shortly thereafter.

It's possible that the labor movement at TJ's would have taken off this year regardless, but it's more likely that the chain's workers were inspired by the success of a similar union drive over at Starbucks (not mention union efforts at other huge corporations like Amazon, Google, and Apple). As of August 5, CNBC reports that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) confirmed that more than 200 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize.

For the past month or so, Trader Joe's workers in Boulder, Colorado have been gearing up for their own union election, which was set to take place this week, per CBS. That is, until the petition was withdrawn on Monday. 

Workers are accusing Trader Joe's of coercion

Just days before their union election was set to take place, Trader Joe's workers in Boulder, Colorado withdrew their petition with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 on Tuesday, August 23. The withdrawal came one day after the workers filed charges against the grocery chain for "coercion and intimidation," per a tweet shared by writer and labor organizer Jonah Furman.

Back in May, Alex Pham, a worker at Trader Joe's Pasadena flagship filed charges against the company with the NLRB. Pham told Jacobin that his employers violated his rights and "wound down benefits" during the pandemic. And earlier this month, Trader Joe's "abruptly" closed its beloved wine shop in New York City's Union Square after talk of unionizing began to spread amongst workers (per Insider). If the alleged behavior happens to continue, employees seeking unionization may have a long road ahead.

Those who have been following the labor movement at Starbucks, in particular, might not be surprised to learn that Trader Joe's is being accused of taking strong measures to discourage its workers from gaining union representation. At the coffee giant, a purported union-busting mentality has been said to take the form of firings, store closures, and the withholding of benefits for pro-union employees (per Vox). As of May, Starbucks was facing a complaint from the NLRB that cited more than 200 alleged labor violations (per CNBC).