In protest against the firing of an employee at the Hadley Trader Joe’s store — the first store in the company’s history to unionize — staff walked out during their shift on Saturday afternoon. Joining the staff were other off-duty Trader Joe’s employees and local unions holding signs and chanting.
The union claims the grocery store violated federal labor law, firing employee Stephen Andrade on June 8 for his support of the union.
“We want to show Trader Joe’s that we are unified in our support of Steve (Andrade) and also that we’re willing to take pretty strong action to protest their union busting and a walkout is an action that does have an impact on the store,” said Maeg Yosef, a Hadley Trader Joe’s employee and the union spokesperson. “So I think that that’s a really strong message.”
Yosef said some customers decided not to cross the picket line while they were protesting.
Trader Joe’s did not respond to a request for comment.
The goal of the walkout is to have management reinstate Andrade. Yosef said management has yet to respond to their concerns.
“We’re trying to give them a chance to do the right thing,” Yosef said.
Trader Joe’s United filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board the day after Andrade’s firing.
Trader Joe’s management said they fired Andrade, a Trader Joe’s employee of 18 years who worked at the Hadley store on Route 9 for the past decade, related to a safety violation.
The violation, according to management, was in regard to a power saw that a store manager told Andrade to remove from the back of the store which is used to help staff create signs, product labels and decorations.
He was told to remove the saw in October but failed to do so, stating the saw wasn’t his and it was packed away safely in the back.
Andrade called his firing a “retaliatory measure,” speculating it was related to his support of the union and his disagreements with some Trader Joe’s managers.
Since Andrade was fired, more than 8,000 individuals have signed a petition to reinstate him and 20,000 letters from the community were emailed to Trader Joe’s management, according to Yosef.
The union, which formed last July, passed with a vote of 45-31. Other stores in Minneapolis, Louisville and Oakland have also attempted to create unions.
The Hadley store’s union began bargaining a contract with Trader Joe’s in November and is still negotiating.