Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Louisville, Kentucky voted 48 to 36 in favor of unionizing this week, adding fuel to a labor campaign that seeks to organize the California-based grocery chain.
The union, Trader Joe’s United, has won elections at three stores so far, adding the Louisville victory to one in Massachusetts and another in Minneapolis. The union lost one of its four votes, at a store in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The National Labor Relations Board has not yet certified the Louisville results. The company has a week to file any objections with the board.
Trader Joe’s is one of a number of high-profile food-and-retail companies dealing with a wave of organizing among employees. The chain has more than 500 U.S. stores and managed to stay union-free until the Massachusetts election last year. Since then, the company has tried to prevent the organizing from spreading further.
Ahead of the Louisville vote, management posted fliers in the store’s break room casting collective bargaining in a negative light and criticizing Trader Joe’s United. The union was started by Trader Joe’s employees in Hadley, Massachusetts, last year and is not affiliated with an established labor group.
The union is now trying to bargain a first contract for the workers who organized last year.
Trader Joe’s could not immediately be reached for comment. The company said during previous elections that it welcomes a fair vote and intends to bargain in good faith if workers choose to unionize.
The company has generally enjoyed a reputation as a decent employer, but many workers say the company has become less generous in recent years. In early 2022, Trader Joe’s told them that it was reducing its discretionary 401(k) contribution for the year by half for most employees, a cut some explicitly cited in their decision to unionize.
“Higher-ups have crafted this lovely image that they take care of us so well, but that isn’t the case when benefits get slashed,” Connor Hovey, a Louisville worker active in the union campaign there, told HuffPost ahead of the vote.
Unions have succeeded with a number of breakthrough organizing campaigns in recent months, forming the first unions not only at Trader Joe’s but also Starbucks, Amazon, REI and Apple. But it remains to be seen how much these unions manage to grow, having only organized a small share of their respective workforces so far. None have secured first contracts yet.
Trader Joe’s United has accused the company of bargaining in bad faith, filing unfair labor practice charges with the labor board. The union said the company began the first day of bargaining last year by saying it wants all workplace policies to remain the same. “They believe the status quo is enough for crew members,” the union said.