- On August 11, Trader Joe’s abruptly closed its only wine store in New York City.
- Workers there told The Huffington Post they were unionizing and about to go public with their efforts.
- Now, workers and their union are calling for Trader Joe’s to reopen the store.
It was the closure heard around New York City TikTok: Trader Joe’s was shuttering its beloved downtown wine store after 15 years.
The wine store, the only one run by Trader Joe’s in the city, had long cultivated a reputation as the cheapest place for New Yorkers to pick up a decent bottle of wine. It also, according to workers, happened to be unionizing when the company abruptly decided to shut it down.
The Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson first reported that workers at the store had been organizing over the last few months with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and were gearing up to publicly announce their effort the week of August 15. According to HuffPost, workers believed they had majority support for the effort, and were ready to sign and submit union cards to the National Labor Relations Board. Instead, the store was closed on August 11 — effective immediately.
“They’re hoping this dissuades other workers from doing the same thing we’ve done,” Robert “Rab” Bradlea, an organizing committee member who’s worked at Trader Joe’s for five years, told HuffPost.
Now, workers and UFCW are calling on the store to reopen.
“Today, UFCW and Trader Joe’s employees are calling out the company’s abrupt closure of the Union Square Wine Shop location as egregious and blatant union busting,” the store’s organizing committee and UFCW said in a joint statement. “Workers at the store are calling on Trader Joe’s to reopen the location and protect their jobs, wages, and schedules.”
The union said that it is “ready to pursue all legal action, including filing charges against Trader Joe’s for their shameless union busting.” Workers also claim in the statement that, in the last few weeks, management had asked them for their opinion on unionizing.
The organizing committee and UFCW said in their statement that the move came as a “complete shock” to both the store’s “deeply loyal customer base” and long-time employees — “and followed repeated public statements from Trader Joe’s leadership that they will cooperate with stores that have chosen to unionize.”
“Trader Joe’s openly brags about being a good employer but there is nothing ‘inclusive and respectful’ about abruptly shutting its tremendously popular wine store just days before workers were set to go public with their union organizing efforts,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement to Insider. “It’s a cruel form of union-busting. The AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with UFCW and the dozens of workers who are now out of a job because they had the courage to come together and stand up for better working conditions.”
In a statement to Insider, Trader Joe’s spokesperson Nakia Rohde said that “Trader Joe’s respects our Crew’s right to support a union — or not.”
“Our decision to close the Union Square wine shop resulted from a long-term review of how best to optimize our one and only license to sell wine in New York State, and to best meet the needs of our grocery customers in the neighborhood,” Rohde wrote. “After 15 years of operating an underperforming wine shop, and planning for a busy holiday grocery season, we decided that the best way forward is to support our Union Square grocery operations using the space previously occupied by the wine shop.”
Rohde said they are “actively looking” for another wine shop location in New York.
The closure comes after historic union victories at stores in Massachusetts and Minnesota.
The Hadley, Massachusetts Trader Joe’s became the first to announce its organizing efforts and to vote to join a union. Maeg Yosef, a crew member and organizer at the Trader Joe’s Hadley location, previously told Insider that workers there were organizing to make the reality of the store closer to its perception as a friendly, cult-favorite beloved grocery option.
“It used to be a lot closer. It used to be more the reality. We care about our jobs. We don’t hate the company — we care about our jobs and we want them to continue to be great jobs for people,” Yosef told Insider in May.
Since then, both the Hadley store and a store in Minneapolis have voted to unionize.
“While we are concerned about how this new rigid legal relationship will impact Trader Joe’s culture, we are prepared to immediately begin discussions with their collective bargaining representative to negotiate a contract,” Rohde said in an email to the Minnesota Reformer after Minneapolis workers opted to join the union.
Trader Joe’s workers aren’t the only unionizing retail workers to see store closures. Recently, Starbucks announced that it was closing a slew of locations over safety concerns, although union organizers at the company said that that was an excuse to shut down locations that had voted to unionize.
“By abruptly closing this store, it’s clear that Trader Joe’s is engaging in an illegal union busting technique that has been utilized by other national corporations facing organizing campaigns of their own, like Starbucks and Amazon,” Trader Joe’s wine shop organizing committee workers and UFCW said in their statement.
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