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Inside A Trader Joe’s Union Contract Bargaining Session

Trader Joe’s workers took us inside their fight for a contract with the “progressive” company.

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Ava: I don’t think Trader Joe’s has been bargaining in good faith. 

Maeg: The company is purposefully dragging out the process.

Jamie: We actually were in a bargaining session and asked them multiple times, do you plan on kicking people off of retirement? And they said no. And then we say, well, can you put that in writing? And they say no. 

Maeg: We’re looking to agree on things like safety, benefits, wages, and create a contract that will actually meet the needs of crew members at our stores and take care of us.

Ava: They rejected all of our proposals.

Jamie: The longer this gets dragged out, I think the more it would just harm the company’s reputation. 

Maeg: The company is interested in wearing us down and wearing us out and that’s not possible.

Trader Joe’s is refusing to bargain fairly with its workers at 2 unionized stores

Ava: The way I would describe bargaining to someone who’s never bargained before is like if you took all your coworkers and came up with a list of demands and reasons why your workplace is not working and took that to your boss. And then if you just threw in some high powered lawyers and two tables <laugh> in a conference room, then you’d have a bargaining session.

Sarah Beth: We want to make wages that truly allow us to live comfortably to enjoy life. We would like protections at work that make us feel safe. We want to be able to plan for a future, to plan for children. And we will fight as hard as we need to fight in order to help win that.

Ava: They have two lawyers in the room who have never worked at Trader Joe’s.

Sarah Beth: There’s been an enormous amount of time wasted. We’ve spent hours and hours explaining how basic tasks work, how long a shift is, how long breaks are, how many employees are needed to do said task.

Workers in Minneapolis, MN and Hadley, MA won their unions and now are trying to bargain together. But Trader Joe’s is not taking their proposals seriously—refusing to budge on issues like gender pronoun pins

Ava: The Minneapolis store where I work is one of the most, like, queer friendly, one of the most diverse stores I’ve worked at.

Maeg: Initially, the company proposed pronoun pins that were so small that they were, um, not legible, which renders them completely ineffective. 

Ava: They’re using any excuse that they can find to minimize the size, the prevalence of these pins.

Jamie: People are allowed to wear like a full body cow costume or turkey costume at different times of the year, sports memorabilia, but suddenly there’s this concern about dress code and uniform that oddly only applies to people wearing pronoun pins.

Ava: It’s made so much easier by having a pin that just plainly states what your pronouns are. I remember the first time I wore one of those on one of my register hours, like, no one called me, sir. And that’s just completely unheard of for me. 

Maeg: If they can’t allow people to wear a pronoun pin large enough to be read, then they don’t actually want us to be visible at work. They want to have that reputation, but they don’t actually want us to be there and be out in the open.

Workers say that they experience discrimination based on body size and hair types.

Jamie: A lot of black people who worked at that store were talking about issues in terms of like headwear that may not necessarily be the best for people with, um, my texture of hair. One of the solutions that she [the bargaining lawyer] offered was just that maybe those people just don’t work demo.

Maeg: But layered on top of that, that can become a disciplinary issue. So we’ve had instances at both our stores where crew members might not be able to get a uniform that fits their body, body type and then management will say, you don’t look professional enough. It becomes a disciplinary issue. we want to have anti-discrimination policies at work that take care of everybody, not just groups that are already protected by law.

Trader Joe’s is misleading workers about the bargaining process and using union-busting lawyers to spread disinformation to employees.

Jamie: They have a strong legal team that’s very good at misleading people without putting in a direct lie.

Maeg: One example was an update that said, the bargaining committee didn’t bring any proposals about wages or benefits. That kind of statement makes it seem like, we don’t care about things like wages or benefits, which is not the case.

Jamie: We’re at a certain stage in our bargaining right now, right? They’re actively pushing back multiple times when we bring up certain topics and they say “We’re not talking economics yet. We’re still talking non-economics.” I think the way that they describe these things is just misleading.

TJs workers will continue showing up to bargain and fight for change.

Maeg: I think we’ve seen this year the power of organizing.

Ava: I think if you are a worker at Trader Joe’s, you need to talk to your coworkers that you trust about organizing.

Sarah Beth: We’re here, we’re ready to bargain. We have done the work. We will continue to do the work, and we’re not going anywhere.

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