retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe this morning reports that employees at a Hadley, Massachusetts, Trader Joe's have voted 45-31 to unionize, the first store in the chain to do so.

According to the story, "Trader Joe’s United, the name of the union at the Hadley location, will be an independent bargaining unit not affiliated with a larger labor union … 

Representatives from the National Labor Relations Board conducted the vote over two days. A simple majority was needed for the vote to pass. Objections can be filed over the next seven days before the results are officially certified."

The next step is for union representatives to meet with company management to negotiate a contract.  The New York Times reports that "the company said in a statement that it was prepared to begin discussions immediately. Implying that its pay, benefits and working conditions were already better than those unionized grocery workers typically receive, it added, “We are willing to use any current union contract for a multistate grocery company with stores in the area, selected by the union representatives, as a template to negotiate a new structure for the employees in this store.”

The Times also points out that "it is unclear whether the union campaign will spread rapidly to other Trader Joe’s stores, as has the campaign at Starbucks, where more than 200 company-owned locations have voted to unionize since December. But the supermarket chain will face at least one more union vote soon - at a Minneapolis store next month - and workers at a store in Colorado filed an election petition this week."

KC's View:

Pendulums, by their very nature, swing.  But it seems to me that it remains within the power of every non-union retailer to take advantage of the moment and find out what the reasons are that people in their businesses might want to organize.  At Trader Joe's, there seems to be some sentiment that management has stepped away from its traditional employee-focuses values. It may be true, and may not be … but perception is a powerful thing, and it is a mistake to discount the opinions and feelings of front line employees.