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Employees at third Trader Joe’s agree to union vote

Union rep cites slow progress in contract negotiations for Massachusetts and Minnesota stores

Employees at a Trader Joe’s in Louisville, Ky., have agreed to pursue joining Trade Joe’s United, the union formed for workers of that company, the union confirmed to SN on Thursday.

The store will become the third Trader Joe’s location in the chain to join the union if workers vote to do so, pending an election. Workers at the Louisville store have filed a petition to organize with the National Labor Relations Board, which is expected to schedule an election in the coming weeks.

“We have been organizing with them for a while, and we are excited for them to announce their intent,” said Sarah Beth Ryther, an employee organizer at the Minneapolis Trader Joe’s.

Workers at the Minneapolis store voted to join the union on Aug. 12, joining workers from the store in Hadley, Mass., who voted to join a few weeks before that. Both stores have been negotiating with the company on separate, parallel contracts, Ryther said.

She said contract negotiations are in the very early stages and are expected to last well over a year after the employees voted to join the union.

“If a contract is a book, we are still on page one,” Ryther said.

A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s could not be reached for comment.

Ryther said that workers and the company made some progress on a few issues, such as the ability for workers to use the pronouns of their choice on their name tags, during a bargaining session last week.

“For the first time we felt like we were making very slow progress at the bargaining table, having our proposals met with some movement back and forth,” she said.

A key concern of the union, Ryther said, is the fact that Trader Joe’s allows its store general managers, known as “captains,” some freedom in whether or not to implement certain policies. This can lead to local implementation of policies that could be discriminatory, she said.

“We want to make sure there is a policy in place that is firm, and that helps prevent some of that discrimination from happening,” said Ryther.

The two sides have not yet begun negotiating economic proposals, other than 401k plans, Ryther said, but have instead been focusing on some safety concerns and other store-level operational issues.

For example, many of the workers at both the Hadley store and the Minneapolis store ride bicycles to and from work and would like the store to ensure that they have a safe place to park their bicycles, she said.

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