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Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s reopening July 1, but its workers call for change

(Images: Lena Friedman)

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.

(Images: Lena Friedman)

“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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17 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s reopening July 1, but its workers call for change

  1. All the staff of this location are from Capitol Hill. Several are LGBTQ and I can’t remember the last time I saw a person of color working there. What is all this about really? Isn’t it an indictment of their own coworkers? And in the end the store can just hire new staff.

  2. TJs should have just come out and said why they closed the store versus all the secrecy and obviously fake covers like “renovations”. I don’t think most sane people would have blamed them for temporarily closing until the CHAZ/CHOP disbanded, if that’s what the problem was.

  3. extortion plain and simple.
    “come up with a concrete plan to support Black employees and customers going forward.”
    “root out anti-Blackness at the store level and the corporate level”
    “We have not collectively made a decision about how we will continue to exert pressure if our demands are not met”
    They shouldn’t met your demands. Get another job. Or they should fire you.
    ” workers shared experiences of racial bias as staff”
    Let’s here concrete facts. Not vague alligations.

  4. Been going to TJ’s for 16 years. Not once have I ever heard any “anti blackness” from any of the employees or customers. My husband and I did share pick up for the building where we live(all over 62-low income) I made cookies and donuts for the employees to say thank you (more than a few times) That’s a lot of cookies and donuts.
    The shares have stopped, corporate said they did an audit and wanted to see that the black people in the community get a share.
    Jodi, I agree, extortion-plain and simple. I signed the petition to keep Joe’s open; but, now I’m not sure and so are a lot of other people in the neighborhood.

  5. I think this whole thing is bullshit. The people protesting TJs appear to have constructed a battle to fight, by loosely strapping together a bunch of conspiratorial threads. Why the hell would the store retaliate against employees who’ve protested by shutting down and damaging themselves financially? What would they have to gain from it? They closed during COVID and again early in the protests, as other stores in the area did. It makes total sense to decide that while closures are spotty and social distance is indefinite, now would be the time to get construction projects done. I’ve seen diversity at all Seattle TJs that reflects the demographic of the community. This is a bunch of misdirected anger and unnecessary drama that hurts more than it benefits.

  6. Social workers can’t stop shoplifters. And at least one TJ employee from this store has posted elsewhere eloquently that the protesters do not speak for all in the store.

  7. Is the picture above the protesters in question? I asked because everybody there appears to be white. I still wouldn’t agree with it even if they were all black but it seems odd that a movement claiming to speak for black people seems entirely white. And the demands are unreasonable and show a total ignorance of how the world works. Maybe they should set up their own social work station outside of Trader Joe’s and they could donate their time to helping the needy instead of pushing it on to others. For a movement that claims to be anti-capitalist they sure make it a point to direct their energy to shaking down people. Don’t they?

    • The ironic thing is that when my parents moved here many decades ago, the area around Trader Joe’s was were it went from mostly white to black. It wasn’t just the Central District that was mostly black, but also parts of Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Montlake, Madrona, and even Leschi. So if these people feel really bad about displacing an entire group of people from this neighborhood, maybe they should move to Ballard or Queen Anne. To me it just shows how hypocritical these so called progressives are. I always hear how “guilty” they feel about living there, but if they felt that guilty, they had the rest of Seattle to choose from to live. Also, Sawant is one of the gentrifiers who bought a home in the formerly majority black Leschi Neighborhood. To me that make her a hypocrite.

  8. I initially took the side of the employees, when it looked like the store was being shut down by corporate in retaliation for participation in protests. The original story was that corporate told them they could protest, then decided to shut down the store as retaliation, possibly for good.

    Now it turns out that’s all bullshit, and actually the employees banded together to force the store shutdown over a bunch of weak conspiracy-mongering. Please provide evidence of “anti-blackness” in the store. As far as I can tell, almost everyone working at the store is white, and they all seem like very very woke people. The demands about social workers, charity funding, and forced political statements are just ludicrous and have nothing to do with improving the workplace.

    What’s happening here is the employees see the BLM moment as a political opportunity to flex on corporate, to the detriment of the community. Then they told us this fiction about corporate closing the store as retaliation against the employees. We all took their side because the community in that area is heavily dependent on TJ130.

    At the end of the day, we the Capitol Hill community want the store reopened. We love the store and many people are heavily dependent on it for recipes and affordable food. We’d also like the employees to be treated fairly and not lied to, if that is indeed what happened. Other than that, just get the store back open. Nobody supports closing down the store until TJ’s makes a bunch of political statements.

  9. The TJ store should just fire all of the white employees. And then they should ban white devils from shopping there. And then, since the customers will be only customers of color, they should give the food away for free. Power to the People !