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The Los Angeles Times reports that an Oakland, California, Trader Joe's store has been successfully organized, with workers voting 73-53 in favor of joining the independent union Trader Joe’s United.  The vote was tallied by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Times writes that "the Oakland store is the third Trader Joe’s to unionize; workers at stores in Hadley, Mass., and Minneapolis have also voted to certify Trader Joe’s United as their representative.  In total, six locations have held union elections."

The NLRB said that the next step is for Trader Joe's to begin "bargaining in good faith with the Oakland employees."

According to the Times, "The win for the union in Oakland comes packaged with a loss: Also on Thursday, a bid to unionize a Trader Joe’s store in Manhattan narrowly failed when the vote by workers resulted in a 76-76 tie. (A majority vote is needed for Trader Joe’s United to represent a store.)

"Trader Joe’s has been criticized for its response to efforts by workers to organize. Workers have accused the company of following the lead of Starbucks, which has cultivated a progressive, worker-friendly image but has aggressively cracked down on union organizing and stalled in bargaining a contract with newly unionized workers.

"On March 1, an administrative law judge with the NLRB found that Trader Joe’s had unlawfully disciplined, suspended and fired a worker at a store in Houston who raised concerns about workplace policies. The judge directed the company to reinstate the worker and award back pay."

KC's View:

One of the things that I think the union movements at some of these so-called progressive companies have in common is a sense of employees feeling let down.  There is a sense that workers felt that their employer was better than most, stood for more than most, and that they expected more than just a paycheck from the companies for which they worked.   When companies - at least from the perspective of these union organisers - did not live up to their expectations, they decided to do something about it.  As opposed to getting another job.

I know it may be bittersweet, but at some level companies should be happy about being held to a higher standard, and about having employees who felt so invested in their employers that disappointment pushed them in this direction.

I'm not saying that unionization will solve everything.  Far from it.  But I do think that these feelings can offer retailers a map that they actually can use to avoid additional unionization movements in the future.  Unless, of course, they prefer the passive-aggressive approach to union negotiations, which creates more, not fewer, problems.