Picketing continues at Trader Joe’s store


Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789 are picketing the new Trader Joe’s grocery store in St. Paul.

The store, which opened June 26 at the corner of Lexington Parkway and Randolph Avenue, has drawn criticism from Local 789 leaders, who say the chain’s workers were not given an option to unionize and that the store will detract business from nearby unionized stores.

“The grocery dollar is finite; it’s not growing,” said Bernie Hesse, Local 789’s director of special projects.

Hesse has been picketing the store along with other UFCW members since the opening. He worries that shoppers who normally buy groceries at union stores will turn their loyalties over to Trader Joe’s.

“This is about $8 million a year that isn’t going to union stores,” he said.

Other UFCW members said they were on the picket line to let Trader Joe’s workers know they have the right to unionize. “We aren’t telling them you have to have a union,” said picketer Debbie Pabarcus. “We just want to lay out what we can offer.”

Pabarcus said the company’s workers have been friendly. Some have even brought her water on hot days.

So far, though, the company has refused to answer questions from UFCW leaders about organizing issues, and Local 789 has not been able to find out what benefits and wages Trader Joe’s employees have.

“They don’t buy locally,” said UFCW picketer George Pokorny Jr., “and the money all goes back to Germany. They just aren’t community-friendly.”

The community seems to have embraced the new store, however. Hesse was discouraged by the Franken, Wellstone, and Obama bumper stickers on many cars entering the store’s parking lot.

“We have to get back into the practice of educating people,” Hesse said. “But we’re not giving up.”

Rose Friedman is an intern with The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation.

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9 thoughts on “Picketing continues at Trader Joe’s store

  1. Trader Joes new employee review process is being used against “veteran” employees to eliminate them from the stores chain wide as we speak. If the employees do not find a collective bargining agreement soon, you will find that all the happy employees will be gone. Trader Joe’s management staff is non responsive to complaints and retaliation for speaking out against any change or abuse. 14 years in the company and recently fired for not being a team player, received pointed attacks from crew unchecked by management. They are not the company that we all loved to shop with and for myself work with, soon they will be like any corporate employer. Hire and fire practices being supported all the way to the highest levels.

  2. You want to earn more money? Become more skilled. Work harder. Get more education. Do things to increase your value in the labor market. That is what I did rather than try to extort more money from an employer by disrupting the customer flow to a business that offers the customer value. In the mean time, I will shop anywhere I want to. This is still a free country the last I checked. Trader Joe’s is a great place to shop and I will come back often.

  3. I was so looking forward to having a closer Trader Joe’s.
    *** But I was not aware of their non-union. and I honestly thought they were based out of S.F. I still by most of my groceries from local Co-op.. but some at Trader Joes. I will not cross the picket line..and will Boycott Trader Joes.. dang it, dang it !

  4. Two related thoughts: 1. I appreciate the long term employees of my local Cub (esp. produce and meats) at 100 & 36th. Thanks! I know you’re union, and seem to be happy! It’s nice to see you there year after year. 2. Trader Joe’s employees seem to really enjoy their work. Maybe it’s an act, but usually happy employees are employees that are treated well, paid fairly, etc. As long as the employees seem happy, and are aware that they CAN unionize, I see no reason not to shop there.

  5. Anyone out there actually WORK for a grocery store? I interviewed human resource professionals at Lunds, Rainbow and Cub in January – looking for a story about how the grocery industry was hiring during the recession. I was shocked. Did you know that the UNION says it is okay for these stores to hire people and NOT pay them benefits (keeping them employed 38 hour weeks) until they serve for 12 months? Then, and only then, are they able to get medical, dental or retirement perks. This is not my father’s labor arrangement. I’m no longer a knee-jerk union girl. I’ve learned to look beyond the union label to see if indeed there are “fair practices” afoot. Sadly, they are NOT present in the grocery industry. If Trader Joes hires and pays fairly, I say buy their goods. And shame on the big-box grocers for their lack of respect for the rest of us.

  6. It is amusing to assume that Unions are associated with San Francisco. We might vote liberal, similar to the Twin Cities, but unions are not prevalent on the West Coast. However, everyone is gay over here.

  7. So, you’re saying that you refuse to shop anywhere that’s not unionized? That’s one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. I work for Trader Joe’s. There’s a reason we aren’t unionized: We don’t NEED to be. And the fact that people are picketing just to inform us of our options is also silly; we’re not idiots. Of course we’re aware we can unionize. Why don’t we? Because we’re paid well, treated really well, and generally enjoy our jobs. We have great benefits, we get time off, we can transfer whenever we want..do I need to keep going? Sounds like the picketers are the ones that need educating.

  8. After what those bastards have done to American’s manufacturing base, I will happily and proudly cross any picket line, anytime, anywhere.  

  9. While you have a right to shop where you want to. Your comment on unions is very elitist. Not everyone has the option to go to school and get an education or learn a skill.  Large companies making millions in profit CAN afford  to pay their employees a living wage and benefits.

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