A Trader Joe's store in Hadley, Massachusetts, made history Thursday when it voted to unionize, making it the first unionized location in the chain's history.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, workers voted 45-31 to unionize at the western Massachusetts store. There are over 530 Trader Joe's locations across the country. Trader Joe's United announced the decision on Twitter, calling it "historic, but not a surprise."
"We now begin the difficult work of sitting down at the negotiating table as equals with our employer, and securing a contract that will benefit and protect us, the crew, instead of the company's bottom line," the letter reads.
According to Trader Joe's United GoFundMe, workers at the Hadley store pointed to Trader Joe's chipping away at worker benefits, allowing wages to "stagnate" and neglecting safety issues. Although the Hadley location is the first to vote to join the union, at least two other Trader Joe's locations in Minneapolis and Colorado have also begun unionization efforts.
Trader Joe's Union launched the conversation in May when it sent an open letter to CEO Dan Bane outlining worker concerns. The union is independent, meaning it's not associated with any national unions.
A spokesperson for Trader Joe's, Nakia Rohde, denied worker claims in a statement to TODAY Food, calling the company's worker benefits package "among the best in the grocery business."
"We are prepared to immediately begin discussions with union representatives for the employees at this store to negotiate a contract," Rohde said. "We are willing to use any current union contract for a multi-state grocery company with stores in the area, selected by the union representatives, as a template to negotiate a new structure for the employees in this store; including pay, retirement, healthcare, and working conditions such as scheduling and job flexibility."
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), an outspoken labor advocate, reacted to the unionization news on Twitter.
"Let me congratulate the workers of Trader Joe’s in Hadley on successfully organizing the first union in the history of Trader Joe’s," Sanders tweeted. "Now is the time for management to recognize the union and to negotiate a fair contract with decent benefits and safe working conditions."
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) also reacted to the news, tweeting, "Congratulations to everyone who made this possible— you are an inspiration!"
The Hadley store's unionization is the latest in a trend of unionization efforts across large corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple and Chipotle. According to the NLRB, union representations filed this past year have increased by 58%, with unfair labor practice charges also increasing by 16%.