Video produced and edited by Libby Rainey, Nicole Bardasz, and Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen
The Trader Joe’s union wave is spreading across the country. Minneapolis workers are unionizing after management fired a beloved—and pro-union—employee at their store for having “a negative impact on the crew.” They’re calling on Trader Joe’s to allow a free and fair union election. We spoke with two Trader Joe’s workers. Below is a full transcript of the video.
Kitty Lu: I think some people will be shocked at first, to hear that their favorite store is not treating their employees as well as they could be. They see us as the happy people, and we’re not. We’re not as happy as we present. We want to be, we really want to be, and we need their support.
Sarah Bethryther: We were super excited when we heard about Hadley [Massachusetts].
Kitty: They’ve definitely inspired us, and we’re excited to pave our own path as a different store; we know Trader Joe’s can, and hopefully will, do better.
Sarah: Over time, Trader Joe’s has slashed benefits, retirement benefits in particular.
Kitty: 10 years ago, it was 15% guaranteed contribution. Then it dropped down to 10 and now it has become zero.
Sarah: Leaving employees with absolutely no idea of how much they’re going to be receiving. The specific language is that “Trader Joe’s may make a discretionary contribution to your retirement plan.”
Kitty: It’s just written so that the company can cite these things and not be held accountable. That makes it increasingly difficult for people to consider staying with what we believe is a great company.
Sarah: I love my coworkers. I think we do a really really good job of working together to address issues as they come up. If a particular policy feels unfair, or feels like it’s targeting a certain group of people, we definitely speak up.
In the past few weeks, an employee of 13 years was let go. The exact words used were that this “crew member’s behavior had a negative impact on the crew”.
Kitty: For me it was just confusion and shock because I couldn’t understand where that could have come from.
Sarah: This employee was beloved. They were a very hard worker. They were very clear about what their opinions were and how they believed the store could be better.
Kitty: It made me worried for myself; if they can fire them, who i see myself modeling after, what is keeping me at the store?
Sarah: We would like CEO Dan Bane to honor what he wrote in a letter in 2020 to Trader Joe’s employees. He said that he would allow employees to go through with an election if they received the 30% or higher union cards needed.
Kitty: We have 30% of the store. Legally, you have to let us have a fair election. We just want you to uphold your word and what legally is required of you. Thank you. [laughs]
Sarah: One of the values that Trader Joe’s espouses is “Kaizen”, or being better every time you complete a task. Being open to changing over time, according to the needs of its workers and according to the needs of its larger community, which includes the customers. I view that as Trader Joe’s truly embodying Kaizen.
Kitty: We want what’s best for the store, and we’re excited that we get to do that as a union.
Videography by Nadia Shaarawi