Trader Joe's employees in Massachusetts become first to file for unionization

The workers say they were partly inspired by similar actions by workers at Starbucks.
Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's in Pembroke Pines, Florida, 2020
(Johnny Louis/Getty Images)

Employees at a Trader Joe's in Massachusetts have filed for a union election, in the wake of workers at other large companies across the U.S. doing the same. The grocery store, in the western Massachusetts town of Hadley, would become the first unionized store in the national chain that has over 500 locations.

In the past several months, a wave of unionization has swept across retail and service chains including such companies as Amazon, REI and Starbucks. 

"Our benefits and our pay were just less supportive than they had been previously," a union organizer and worker at the Hadley store told NPR. "We saw a lot of changes to our retirement and our health care. We saw our wages not keeping up with increased cost of living and then the pandemic just added to that sense of feeling undervalued and unappreciated."

According to the employee, Maeg Yosef, over the course of the 18 years she has worked at Trader Joe's, the company has vastly shifted the guaranteed retirement contribution from 15% to 10% to, most recently, language that does not guarantee a retirement contribution of any sort.

The number of hours employees must work weekly to maintain health insurance also shifted from about 20 to 30.

Last month, a majority of workers at the Hadley store voiced their support unionization and gave the company 72 hours to voluntarily recognize their organization. The company did not do that, which led the workers this week to file with the National Labor Relations Board. 

According to the NPR report, the NLRB says union election petitions were up around 57% in the first half of fiscal 2022, compared to the previous year.