Why Trader Joe’s employees are fighting to unionize

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Workers at two stores among the hundreds of Trader Joe’s locations nationwide are hoping to join a newly formed independent union.

There was a big lie that modern corporations sold to American workers in the late 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st century: It was that profit-driven entities could make both employees and customers happy enough that no interventions like worker unions or strong federal regulations were needed.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Modern companies like Apple, Google, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s perpetrated this lie, obscuring their business practices with a veneer of progressive ideals and referring to staff with euphemistic titles like “partners,” “associates,” or “crew members.” Indeed, many workers employed within this slice of the American corporate world were often relatively content—until now. Alongside the recent pro-union activity at more than 150 Starbucks cafés across the United States is a newfound awareness among some workers at the Trader Joe’s grocery chain that a union may also be in their best interest.

Unlike corporations like Starbucks or Amazon where attempts to unionize have a long history, Trader Joe’s workers have traditionally been content. In 2003, when tens of thousands of grocery store workers in Southern California—home of the original Trader Joe’s—went on strike for better working conditions and pay, Trader Joe’s workers, who were not unionized, sat out the labor strife.

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