By Steven Greenhouse
Source: The New Republic
The spacious second-floor conference room at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was an unlikely place for labor and management to face off, but there they were: eight Trader Joe’s workers at one row of tables, a Trader Joe’s official and two lawyers for the company at another. On the walls hung student paintings of brilliant, swirling flowers. They did little to cheer the atmosphere.
Three months earlier, in July 2022, employees at a Trader Joe’s in Hadley, four miles from Smith, had voted to become the nation’s first unionized TJ’s, and now they were finally—and nervously—plunging into the bargaining process, in the hope of winning higher pay, better retirement benefits, and safer working conditions. Outside the conference center, several pro-union students carried signs saying “RESPECT WORKERS.” Inside, the workers turned negotiators admittedly felt uncomfortable; unlike the company’s high-paid Morgan Lewis attorneys, they were rookies at collective bargaining.