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Workers at Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn Reject Union

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Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Brooklyn have voted against unionizing, handing a union its first loss at the company after two victories this year.

The workers voted 94 to 66 against joining Trader Joe’s United, an independent union that represents employees at stores in Western Massachusetts and Minneapolis. Workers at a Trader Joe’s in Colorado filed for an election this summer but withdrew their petition shortly before a scheduled vote.

“We are grateful that our crew members trust us to continue to do the work of listening and responding to their needs, as we always have,” Nakia Rohde, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement after the National Labor Relations Board announced the result on Thursday.

The result raises questions about whether the uptick in union activity over the past year, in which unions won elections at several previously nonunion companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple, may be slowing.

Union supporters recently lost an election at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, N.Y., and the pace of unionization at Starbucks has dropped in recent months, though the union has won elections at over 250 of the company’s 9,000 corporate-owned U.S. stores so far.

Workers at a second Apple store recently won an election in Oklahoma City, however, and unions have upcoming votes at a Home Depot in Philadelphia and a studio owned by the video game maker Activision Blizzard in upstate New York.

As of June, Trader Joe’s had more than 500 locations and 50,000 employees across the country and was not unionized. Early in the pandemic, the company’s chief executive sent a letter to employees complaining of a “current barrage of union activity that has been directed at Trader Joe’s” and arguing that union supporters “clearly believe that now is a moment when they can create some sort of wedge in our company.”

The company has said it is prepared to negotiate contracts at its unionized stores. An employee involved in the union, Maeg Yosef, said the two sides were settling on bargaining dates.

Union supporters at the Brooklyn store had said they were seeking an increase in wages, improved health care benefits and paid sick leave as well as changes that would make the company’s disciplinary process more fair.

Before union supporters had a chance to talk with all their colleagues, management became aware of the campaign and announced it in a note posted in the store’s break room in late September. The company also fired a prominent union supporter a day or two later.

Amy Wilson, a leader of the union campaign in the store, said organizing had become more difficult after the firing and the note from management.

“The last core of people hadn’t been spoken to directly by their co-workers, and we lost them instantly,” she said. “It undermined the trust, the relationship. They felt excluded and offended.”

Ms. Rohde, the Trader Joe’s spokeswoman, did not respond to a question about why management posted the break room note. She said that while she couldn’t comment on the firing of the union supporter, “we have never and would never fire a crew member for organizing.”

Trader Joe’s is known for providing relatively good wages and benefits for the industry, though workers have complained that the company has made its health care and retirement benefits less generous over the past decade.

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