By Blair Gimma
HADLEY — Trader Joe’s United (TJU) has gathered over 50 signatures from members of the independent union to reinstate Stephen Andrade, an 18-year employee who was fired earlier this month.
The reason given for Andrade’s firing was that he did not remove a jigsaw that he did not own from the store. In response, TJU has filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Trader Joe’s of firing Andrade because he supported the union and was active in union efforts.
Following a week of signature gathering, the campaign to reinstate Andrade officially began with a Sunday, June 18 action during which members of TJU presented management with a petition signed by 53 Trader Joe’s employees during a shift change.
“The termination of Steve Andrade had no legitimate basis, and we will continue to fight on his behalf,” TJU president and Hadley worker Jaime Edwards told The Shoestring at the June 18th action.
“This firing, like every attempt the company makes to intimidate its workers, only reminds us of why we organized in the first place,” they continued. “That’s why we’re here. The era of blatant retaliation without recourse is over.”
Now, TJU is asking the public to put additional pressure on the national chain to reinstate Andrade.
“What we have been doing is engaging the public, and especially customers, in letting Trader Joe’s know that [customers] won’t stand for this kind of union busting and retaliation,” Maeg Yosef, the union’s spokesperson and another Hadley employee, told The Shoestring on Friday. “We’ve had almost 20,000 letters sent to corporate this week from the public urging them to reinstate Steve.”
Yosef added that while the union has still received no response from Trader Joe’s corporate offices, supporters can continue sending more letters.
Since the Hadley store voted to unionize in July 2022, three more Trader Joe’s stores in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Oakland have voted in favor of joining the independent union. Trader Joe’s is currently fighting the results of the Louisville election. In addition, unsuccessful elections were held in Brooklyn and Lower East Side locations in New York City, where workers voted not to unionize.
While TJU and Trader Joe’s began contract negotiations in November 2022, meetings have come to a halt because Trader Joe’s has rejected TJU’s efforts to negotiate a single contract for all four stores using hybrid negotiations. At its latest meeting in Oakland, Trader Joe’s refused to meet with TJU’s bargaining committee, accusing the union of bad faith negotiating for having some members from other stores attend remotely via Zoom. The National Labor Relations Board recently dismissed similar charges made by Starbucks towards Starbucks Workers United, stating that hybrid bargaining “was not unreasonable, burdensome, or in bad faith.” According to TJU, Trader Joe’s refuses to schedule future meeting dates.
Trader Joe’s did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Blair Gimma is a co-editor of The Shoestring. They are alive in Massachusetts.
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