Graphics on the cover of a Trader Joe's grocery bag Credit: Karen Juanita Carrillo photo

Employees at the Trader Joe’s grocery store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are planning to form a union.

The Williamsburg store, located at 200 Kent Avenue in northern Brooklyn, has only been open since December 10, 2021. Yet store employees filed with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize its 185 workers last Friday, Sept. 23.

Staffers at the store claim they’ve faced poor working conditions and have had to deal with racism and union busting.

Jaz W., a 29-year-old Black worker who was trying to unionize at the store, was summarily fired once management found out about her efforts and appeals to have her reinstated have been ignored. In an interview with the magazine Jacobin, Jaz W. spoke about some of the problems she encountered while working at Trader Joe’s: “They’re always telling us that Trader Joe’s doesn’t believe in hierarchy and bureaucracy. That’s why they have this lingo where general managers are called ‘captains,’ assistant managers are called ‘mates,’ and we’re called ‘crew members.’ But even though the company uses this lingo, the same hierarchy—the same power structure—is still there.

“At our store, there’s a particular mistreatment of workers of color. Lots of the people they’ve been recently letting go or punishing are people of color. And now I’m part of that list.”

After Jaz W. was let go, other TJ’s workers demonstrated in front of the store and handed out fliers to customers and anyone passing by.

The flier they passed out stated:

“This store, Trader Joe’s Williamsburg-548, has a pattern of inappropriately targeting workers of color for discipline. We say NO MORE. That’s why we’re organizing for our rights and dignity at work by forming a union to fight for an NYC living wage, better access to healthcare and paid time off, clear and fairly applied disciplinary processes, and much more.

“We’re asking you to stand with our crew as we work together for the protections and fair working conditions we deserve.”

If the Williamsburg store unionizes, they will affiliate with Trader Joe’s United, and will be TJ’s third store in the United States to win official union recognition. The other two Trader Joe’s locations to unionize are in Massachusetts and Minnesota—the Williamsburg location would be the first one in New York City.

Trader Joe’s Wine Shop, store #541, was reportedly attempting to unionize when it abruptly closed last month, on Aug. 11, after having been open at 138 East 14th St. in Manhattan’s Union Square for 15 years.

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