In July, workers at a Trader Joe’s in Hadley, Massachusetts, successfully voted to unionize and became the first unionized Trader Joe’s in the country. Last week, a Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis followed suit.
The successful elections are part of a wave of labor actions across the country, including at Starbucks and Amazon — employees at a unionized Starbucks near Boston University have been on strike for nearly 30 days.
“I think that it's no accident that places and businesses that made part of their brand identity treating their workers well and enjoying their workers are the ones who were being targeted [for unionization] because these workers got used to being treated much better than others,” food writer Corby Kummer said on Boston Public Radio Monday.
Kummer added that the COVID-19 pandemic and political climate are factors in recent unionization efforts. Some companies cut benefits at the start of the pandemic, and now workers have to fight to bring them back.
“So many places, meaning employers, have been much more lax and financially strapped because of the pandemic — and treating their employees worse,” he said. “And also, unions are more fashionable, they've come back into popularity and workers' consciousness in a way they haven't in decades.”
Kummer said that unionization efforts at stores like Trader Joe’s are more challenging than at Starbucks, because grocery stores have more employees. Still, he believes the future of Trader Joe’s unions could signal the future of grocery store unions more broadly.
“I think that Trader Joe's is an important bellwether for the future, and I'm proud of Massachusetts for being the first one,” he said.