Workers at the Trader Joe's store in Massachusetts will be voting later this week on whether to join a union.
Three workers who took part in the meetings said that supervisors asked them to reject Trader Joe's United. The talks included the store's top manager, known as the "captain" in company parlance, as well as a pair of regional managers for the company.
Maeg Yosef, a spokeswoman for Trader Joe's United, said it was the first time supervisors had asked her to attend a meeting. Managers talked about how the union campaign had been difficult on supervisors in the store, she said.
Yosef referred to the union-avoidance law firm as a Lifetime movie. They were trying to pull at our heartstrings. It has been challenging for management and a union could be challenging.
Two workers told The Huffington Post that their meetings had direct appeals to vote against the union. The meetings appeared to be going on all day on Sunday, three days before workers begin casting their votes, according to one of them.
The store manager is new to the store and does not want to have a union present. Lloyd said in a text that he was asked to vote no. The meeting was just a delivery of talking points.
Managers used to hold one-on-one chats with workers regarding the union campaign, according to Lloyd and Yosef. The meetings are held to discourage workers from voting for the union.
Trader Joe's didn't reply to a request for comment on Monday.
“It was like Littler Mendelson tried to make a Lifetime movie.”
- Maeg Yosef, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s United, referring to the union-avoidance law firm
During the campaign, the company did not speak out against the union, but it did say that it welcomed a vote at the store. The compensation, benefits and working conditions at Trader Joe's are among the best in the grocery business, according to a spokesman. When they are, we are ready to vote.
The store has more than 500 locations in the U.S., but none of them currently have union representation. Trader Joe's United workers in Minnesota went public with a campaign of their own.
Trader Joe's United is not associated with a union. The new Amazon Labor Union won an election in Staten Island, New York, with little in the way of staff or resources. Pro bono work from labor lawyers has been done by a few workers.
Workers at a Trader Joe's store in north of Springfield said they are trying to unionize their store because Trader Joe's has taken away their benefits in the past. Workers with less than 10 years with the company will see their 401(k) contributions slashed in half, with crew members learning earlier this year that they would be receiving less retirement benefits.
Ahead of the union vote, Trader Joe's told employees it would be offering a $10-per-hour pay premium for working on Sundays. Yosef thought the announcement was a response to the organizing inside stores and an attempt to cool union support.
“The store manager (captain) made a personal appeal to the fact that he is new to the store and does not want to have a union present.”
- Skyler Lloyd, Trader Joe's worker
Workers were told to leave the store or remove their union pins if they didn't want to. The labor board has not yet decided if there is merit in the union's allegations. Yosef said the union would be filing more charges related to the meetings.
A union needs to get signed cards from 30% of the likely bargaining unit in order to get an election, but it needs a majority of votes in order to win the election. There will be a vote count by the National Labor Relations Board at the store on Thursday afternoon.
A wave of organizing is taking place at non-union retail companies, including Starbucks and Apple. Some of the retailers' workers have unionized for the first time in a long time. The Seattle-based coffee chain launched a counter-campaign after Starbucks baristas organized 200 stores in a matter of months.
Trader Joe's United is confident going into the vote, according to Yosef. She said that about 200 people, including a congressman, attended the rally near the store. Yosef said union supporters recently all wore red Trader Joe's shirts to work on the same day, even though they weren't wearing union pins.
She said that they collected enough red ones to make a statement.