A powerful delegation of rank-and-file Trader Joe’s United (TJU) workers traveled over four hours in driving rain Aug. 15 from their store in Hadley, Massachusetts, to corporate headquarters in Boston’s Financial District. Over 100 supporters joined them on Federal Street to hand deliver petitions with 22,000 signatures to reinstate Steve Andrade, who was framed up and unjustly fired in June for his union advocacy at the Hadley store.
As if borrowing from the playbook of Starbucks or Amazon, Trader Joe’s bosses and high-priced lawyers cooked up a fake story. This one involved a tool used to make corporate advertising art, not even Andrade’s tool, allegedly left out without incident at the Hadley store. Andrade, a beloved and soft-spoken crew member of 18 years, has been instrumental in advocating for the union and improved conditions for his co-workers and neighborhood customers.
The Hadley store (site 512) was the first Trader Joe’s in the country to win a National Labor Relations Board election in June 2022, inspiring others in Minneapolis; Oakland, California; Louisville, Kentucky; and elsewhere to organize with TJU and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The union’s founders in Hadley petitioned the NLRB as an independent, unaffiliated union.
‘Trader Joe’s: We can see your greedy side!’
Despite its hippie, artsy beginnings in 1967 in Pasadena, California, Trader Joe’s now leads U.S. grocery giants in revenue per square foot — over $2,100. It made $13.3 billion last year from 560 stores nationwide, most located in relatively wealthy small towns and city neighborhoods.
Wielding a bullhorn, Local 1 President Jamie Edwards fired up the crowd and the Financial District. “What’s disgusting? Union Busting!” and “Trader Joe’s, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side!” echoed off skyscrapers occupied by JPMorgan Chase-owned First Republic Bank, Rockport Capital and Trader Joe’s East Coast offices. Nervous armed security guards ushered clients through picketed gilded doors.
Edwards reported a list of union-busting tactics and unfair labor practices endured by the workers in the Western Massachusetts store this past year. They include retaliatory firings and other discipline on bogus accusations, coercion, in-store and at-home harassment, threats and intimidation, cutting hours, prohibition of union pins, interrogations and captive audience meetings, bad faith bargaining, taking health care coverage from workers — including one worker with cancer — and unrelenting written and verbal misrepresentations of the union’s legal rights, intentions and demands.
“Somehow this company still has an image of being progressive and proworker,” Edwards said. “Does this sound like a progressive company to you?” The crowd responded, “Hell No!”
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Union delegations from Service Employees (SEIU) 32BJ, UNITE HERE Local 26, UFCW and Starbucks Workers United represented the 22,000 petitioners for Andrade’s reinstatement. They declared that “An injury to one is an injury to all!” John Buonopane, United Steelworkers (USW) District 4 staff representative, called out “Trader Joe’s corporate thugs, who should be arrested for their criminal activities!”
Several socialist organizations, including Democratic Socialists of America, Young Communist League and Party for Socialism and Liberation, sent delegations and speakers. Mairead Skehan Gillis of Workers World Party put Trader Joe’s on notice: “This corporation is hoping that the workers will be fearful and give up their organizing efforts so that they will accept less than what is owed to them. But all of us are here today together to show them that they are wrong … We will not be silent. We are here today to demand that Steve be returned immediately. We will not stand for anything less!”
Maeg Yosef, TJU Local 1’s communications director, closed with a tribute “to all of you who’ve been retaliated against, harassed, and in the case of Steve fired; for all of us who’ve borne the brunt of union busting every day this past year, I am here to remind you that you are all badasses! … Trader Joe’s is scared of your worker power, and they need to come to the negotiating table and deliver a fair contract now!”
Sign the petition to “Reinstate Steve” and support TJU Local 1 at
Steve Gillis is a 37-year member and an elected leader of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, now working for the members and retired from driving.