The E Madson Trader Joe’s will reopen this week after a surprise 18-day closure but many of its employees continue to call for customers to support their push for changes over Black Lives Matter and worker rights at the nationwide grocery chain’s outlet serving Capitol Hill and the Central District.
The store is planned to reopen Wednesday, July 1st.
Last week, a group of Trader Joe’s workers ticked off a series of demands outside their E Madison store Thursday morning in response to its contentious closure — later announced by the company as temporary — when a group of employees participated in Black Lives Matter protesting Friday, June 12.
Suited in all-black clothing and employee name tags, workers shared experiences of racial bias as staff and read off demands they are calling on corporate and store management to respond to ahead of the store’s July 1 planned reopening. Workers are calling on the company to train staff in implicit bias and de-escalation and come up with a concrete plan to support Black employees and customers going forward. They demand the company upholds the jobs of workers involved in protesting without penalty, that store private security be replaced by a social service agency trained in mental health and de-escalation, and that staff protocols and disciplinary processes are transparent and well-documented.
“There has been a profound disconnect with the company’s core values and the day-to-day reality of how our store is run long before that Friday,” employee Rose Brickley said at the gathering. “We think that it’s time for the company to do better.”
Store #130 — one of over 500 locations of the grocery store chain known for its signature brand items — closed early on June 12, a day of widespread Black Lives Matter protesting and many businesses closing in solidarity across the city.
Outside the store, the sign stated it would be “closed indefinitely” beginning the following day, although the company seemingly reversed this decision as a window sign now reads: “During this temporary closure, we are taking the time to execute a remodel plan to address safety and security concerns that have developed over the last year.”
A company spokesperson told CHS that the closure can be attributed to the company’s remodeling plans and said they are paying staff for scheduled shifts during this closure.
In response to the initial announcement of the store’s closure, a group of employees launched a “Save Capitol Hill Trader Joes” petition that has garnered national attention and now reached almost 25,000 signatures.
“We hope the community who’s been with us in our initial demands will also be with us in the demands that we’re issuing now, which include for Trader Joe’s to tangibly, concretely and specifically support Black crew members and come out with a plan to root out anti-Blackness at the store level and the corporate level,” employee group spokesperson Peter Strand told CHS.
The petition says the group of workers “believe it’s no coincidence that the store was abruptly closed on the day that dozens of us took action in support of the movement for Black lives” and that the company saw the Capitol Hill location as a “hot spot for worker organizing.” The petition cites the store’s closure as retaliation on the part of Trader Joe’s corporate against the store being understaffed on June 12, although workers say their absences were excused by management.
In an update posted to the petition, workers called the store’s reopening “a big win” but labeled the company’s remodeling rationale a “smokescreen.”
“We have not collectively made a decision about how we will continue to exert pressure if our demands are not met,” Strand said. It’s a conversation that we are having in an ongoing way.”
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