Trader Joe’s on Wednesday filed an objection to the recent union election in Louisville, Kentucky, saying workers at the store were subject to “an atmosphere of fear and coercion” that interfered with a fair vote.
In documents filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Trader Joe’s said representatives from the independent Trader Joe’s United union put pressure on workers to influence the outcome of the election by approaching those believed to be against unionization and telling them not to vote.
“This unlawful conduct created an atmosphere of fear and coercion and interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a free and fair election and/or created a general atmosphere of fear and reprisal that rendered a free election impossible,” Trader Joe’s said in the complaint.
The Monrovia, California-based grocer did not respond to a WGB request to comment further on its issues with the election that was held late last month.
Workers at the store voted 48-36 in favor of joining the union, becoming the third Trader Joe’s store to do so, following employees at stores in Hadley, Massachusetts, and Minneapolis last year.
The union on Thursday expressed its disappointment in Trader Joe’s objection to the election.
“It’s interesting that the company is claiming that we tainted the ‘laboratory’ conditions of the election when we have several unfair labor practice charges on file against Trader Joe’s for coercion, intimidation, threats and surveillance in the weeks leading up to our election,” Connor Hovey, union organizer and Louisville Trader Joe’s employee, said in a statement. “We also think it’s interesting that a company with such a progressive image is going to such great lengths to delay the results of a fair, democratic process.”
Trader Joe’s and the union had been at the bargaining table this week.
“Now we know why Trader Joe’s scooted out of the bargaining early today … they didn’t want to be in the room with us when this news hit,” Trader Joe’s United said on Twitter late Wednesday.
On Thursday, the union said it had just wrapped up two days of negotiations in Hadley, Massachusetts, calling it "our most productive bargaining session yet."
Trader Joe's United said it presented economic proposals to the grocer, including a request for a starting wage of $30 per hour, with adjustments for seniority and annual increases. The union is also seeking health care benefits with no premiums and no weekly-hour requirements, as well as increased paid time off and retirement contributions.
"Our employer dismissed these proposals out of hand," the union said on Twitter. "They acknowledged that the company could afford these changes--they just weren't interested in making them ... We did have movement, and came to an agreement with our employer on a few issues such as jury duty leave."
But, the union said, the two sides could not come to an agreement that any changes would apply to all unionized stores under one contract.
Trader Joe’s, in its filing, is requesting that the Louisville election results be “set aside.”
A hearing date with the NLRB has not yet been set to rule on Trader Joe’s objection. Until then, the Louisville union will be put on hold.
Last fall, workers at a Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn, New York, voted against joining the union by a 94-64 vote.
In September, workers at a New Seasons Market in Portland, Oregon, voted to become the first in the chain to unionize.
The push to unionize was driven by Trader Joe’s workers who stayed on the job throughout the pandemic and are now seeking better wages, benefits and employee safety, union organizer Maeg Yosef, an 18-year Trader Joe’s employee, told WGB last year.
“We really just were grocery store workers who started to talk about how a union could benefit us,” Yosef said. “We worked through the pandemic. We saw other places like Starbucks had been unionizing. ... It felt a lot tougher during the pandemic because the stakes were a lot higher for everyone who worked.”
Since late 2021, more than 250 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include information from the recent union bargaining session.