Is Trader Joe’s Unionized? (Everything You Need to Know)

Trader Joe’s doesn’t want its workers to unionize. This became apparent in 2022 after the company retained Littler Mendelson, a union avoidance firm that Starbucks also retained in an effort to stop its workers from joining their hands for collective bargaining.

Another example of Trader Joe’s anti-union mindset came in September last year. Only a few weeks after workers at one of its stores had filed a petition to hold a union election, the grocery firm announced company-wide increases to benefits and compensation.

While Trader Joe’s denies that this move is an attempt to influence the election results, sceptics and some of its workers think otherwise. However, as the likes of Amazon and Starbucks have discovered to their dismay, being anti-union doesn’t mean you won’t get one.

Read on to learn about the unionization status of workers at Trader Joe’s.

Is Trader Joe’s Unionized?

Trader Joe's Employee Discounts

At the time of writing, Trader Joe’s has three unionized stores in the US.

These include a store in Hadley, Massachusetts, the first in the company’s 50-odd-year history with an employee union. Since then, workers at TJ’s stores in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Louisville, Kentucky, have voted in favor of joining the Trader Joe’s United.

However, not everyone who works for Trader Joe’s wants to form a union.

For example, a TJ’s in Brooklyn, New York, collectively voted against unionizing in October 2022. Similarly, a petition to hold a union election in a Boulder, Colorado store was withdrawn after it failed to garner enough support among the workers.

Why Trader Joe’s Workers Are Unionizing?

In the words of a Trader Joe’s worker, here are the main reasons why TJ’s employees are unionizing:

1) Scrapping of Guaranteed Retirement Contribution

Until a few years ago, Trader Joe’s had a retirement contribution plan under which it guaranteed to contribute 15% of the employee’s annual dslsty to their retirement fund. Then, the percentage the company promised to contribute dropped to 10%.

Fast forward to a few years ago, and the guaranteed retirement plan was turned into a discretionary one. That means the company no longer guarantees any retirement contribution to its employees, jeopardizing the plans of its workers who are reaching retirement age.

2) Mixed Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

While Trader Joe’s did provide its workers with the required safety gear during the pandemic, some of its measures beggar belief. For instance, it barred its employees from wearing gloves unless they had a doctor’s note.

TJ’s reason for issuing this directive? Gloves don’t look good for customers.

These and other factors – many workers claim they were left in the dark about the company’s sick policy during the pandemic – led to efforts that culminated in the formation of Trader Joe’s United, an independent union that has received membership of three TJ’s stores.

3) Cuts In The Company’s 401(k) Plan

While Trader Joe’s would never admit to it, the changes it introduced to its 401(k) plan in mid-2022 can only be described as a cut.

Before the plan was unveiled, all the employees received an annual lump-sum contribution from the company equal to 10% of their previous year’s wages. Under the plan, however, those with less than a decade of service at TJ’s would only receive 5% of work performed in the last year.

Also, while the plan allows workers with a decade on the job to keep their 10% annual contribution, it does so with a catch. The employees must have worked at least 700 hours each year to qualify for the higher deposit. If the hours dropped for any reason, they could end with just 5%.

4) Unveiling Of A New Work Policy

Ask Trader Joe’s employees, and they will tell you that flexibility is one of the main draws of the job. Many employees treat TJ’s as a ‘part-time gig’ or a ‘retirement job’ in which they could work as many days as they please without risking losing their job.

However, a new policy unveiled in January 2023 risks throwing that flexibility around the window. Under the policy, workers will have to come to the store a minimum of three days a week to maintain their employment with the company.

This is a significant blow to parents, students, older crew, and workers with disabilities who can only afford to work part-time at the grocery chain.

How Is Trader Joe’s Responding To Unionization Efforts By Its Workers?

In the same month that workers at its Boulder, Colorado, store filed a petition to hold a union election, Trader Joe’s announced company-wide increases to pay and benefits, including:

  • An increase in employees discounts from 10% to 20%
  • A $10 an-hour premium pay for working Sundays
  • A significant increase in paid time off
  • Market pay rate adjustments over complaints about pay disparities between new hires and long-term employees

However, to be fair, Trader Joe’s took good care of its employees even before the unionization efforts gathered steam.

For example, its ‘crew members’ (TJ’s lingo for entry-level store positions) can make up to $24 per hour, nearly twice the highest average minimum wage in the US. Captains (store managers) can net around $100,000 per year before taxes.

In addition, the company has a well-defined route for any employee who wants to grab leadership roles within the organization. A survey indicates that 78% of mates started as crew, whereas 100% of captains were promoted from the mate role.


In summary, unionization efforts at Trader Joe’s have been more successful over the past two years than in the previous 55 put together. However, as defeats to unionization effort show, TJ’s crew members still have a long way to go before they can enjoy a strong position bargaining with the company.

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