Trader Joe’s Disputes Union’s Election Win, Files Another Appeal

Trader Joe’s on Wednesday escalated a fight with union members in Kentucky by filing another appeal of their union’s January 2023 election victory.

A regional director for the National Labor Relations Board rejected the company’s objections to the vote to unionize and found that the union, Trader Joe’s United, had won fair and square. But Trader Joe’s challenged that determination in its new filing and asked the NLRB’s board in Washington to review it.

The California-based grocer, which has been trying to stamp out the union’s organizing campaign for a year and a half, still insists that the union improperly influenced the vote at a Louisville store.

The union and its supporters “engaged in pervasive, coercive, and intimidating conduct that precluded the conduct of a free and fair election,” the company wrote in its appeal. Trader Joe’s asked that the NLRB, which oversees private-sector collective bargaining, conduct a “rerun election.”

Seth Goldstein, an attorney for the union, said that the company’s stance amounted to election denialism, calling it a “replay of the 2020 presidential election” that then-President Donald Trump tried to overturn.

“They like democracy until they lose,” Goldstein said. “When they win, they win. When they lose, they still want to think they win.”

A Trader Joe’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The labor board’s regional office held a hearing last year after Trader Joe’s initial appeal. The hearing officer who oversaw the proceeding recommended that all of the company’s objections be thrown out; the board’s regional director agreed and certified the union as the official representative for workers at the store. Trader Joe’s is now taking its case to the NLRB’s board in Washington for review.

The company has defended itself against union-busting charges in part by arguing that the National Labor Relations Board is "unconstitutional."
The company has defended itself against union-busting charges in part by arguing that the National Labor Relations Board is “unconstitutional.”

John Greim via Getty Images

Trader Joe’s, which is represented by the law firm Morgan Lewis, claims that union organizers and Goldstein illegally pressured workers to vote in favor of the union. The company’s case hinged in part on testimony that Goldstein raised a fist while in the store — a common gesture of union support — and said the word “solidarity” just ahead of the vote. The labor board’s regional director found that Goldstein did not violate the law.

“They’re still making these ridiculous arguments,” Goldstein said.

The union won the vote at the Louisville store 48-36. It would be the fourth store that Trader Joe’s United, a new union unaffiliated with an established labor group, has unionized since July 2022.

The labor board’s prosecutorial office has accused Trader Joe’s of a slew of labor law violations, including punishing union supporters and illegally firing a union member at its Hadley, Massachusetts, store, which was the first to unionize.

The company recently defended itself against the union-busting allegations by arguing in an NLRB proceeding that the NLRB itself is “unconstitutional.”

Connor Hovey, a Trader Joe’s employee and leader in the Louisville union effort, said the company had carried out a “year of baseless challenges” following the election.

“Trader Joe’s is abusing the NLRB’s appeals systems, directly after calling them an unconstitutional entity,” Hovey said.

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