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Employees call it retaliation for protest, Trader Joe’s says closed for Capitol Hill remodel

Trader Joe’s isn’t big on public relations and social media but its Monrovia, California corporate office has responded to CHS’s inquiry about the strange and sudden shuttering of the Capitol Hill store that employees say is retaliation for employee actions in support of Black Lives Matter protests and labor issues at the E Madison grocery.

A company spokesperson confirmed the employee group’s assertion that the location was closed Friday because “we did not have enough Crew Members available to run the store.” But Trader Joe’s says its “temporary” closure is about construction work, not protests.

“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,” the spokesperson said via email. “We will reopen the store as soon as these construction projects are completed, and it is our hope that we can welcome back our customers in the next week or two.”

The company spokesperson has not responded to phone calls or our attempts to follow up specifically about how the protest and employee involvement factored into the decision to close the store.

“I can assure you no Crew Members have been terminated,” the spokesperson did say.

CHS reported here on Friday’s sudden closure and employee group call for support to try to keep store #130 open. “We, a group of Store #130 workers who wish to remain anonymous, 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,” a statement from the employee group on the situation reads. “We know that the company will try to avoid the appearance of being antagonistic to the movement.” The group has posted a petition for customers to support the workers and “save” the store.

During the closure, Trader Joe’s say it is “continuing to pay our Crew Members for their scheduled shifts” and “perishable product that would expire prior to re-opening will be donated to our neighborhood food banks.”

“We appreciate that this is an inconvenience and value the patience and understanding of our customers,” the company spokesperson said.

UPDATE: Thanks to a CHS reader, here’s proof from the Food Bank at St. Mary’s that Trader Joe’s kept its word on the donations.

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27 thoughts on “Employees call it retaliation for protest, Trader Joe’s says closed for Capitol Hill remodel” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Hmmmm, no construction or trade permits filed at this address.

    Doesn’t look like very much planning has gone into this “remodel” that requires shutting down the store.

    • I don’t know the exact process for commercial spaces, but for residential ones, remodeling under a certain $$ amount often does not require any permits – if services aren’t being changed- no rerouting of electrical, water etc. there would not necessarily be any permits filed.

      I can understand if they chose to possibly move up a planned remodel of the store – to shut the store right now, when it is more difficult to do normal business, to spruce it up seems to make better business sense than waiting until things normalize.

      • A remodel that isn’t big enough to require a permit, but big enough to shut the store down seems more than a bit suspicious, given the circumstances of how this was announced to the staff and the neighborhood.

        As a comparison, Central Co-Op made some big changes to their entry without shutting the store down.

      • For every conspiracy theory there’s a reasonable explanation…. if they are redoing the floor they’d probably shut the business…

      • Actually, about a year and a half ago this exact location DID redo it’s floor. And never closed or changed hours. Employees worked overnight shifts with the construction crew and deconstructed all of the shelves and rebuilt them on wheels so the aisles could be moved around and the construction crew could pull up old tile and buff out the cement underneath. Took over a month. This is pretty common actually. All construction, remodeling or re-merchandising is done during overnight shifts. And no one heard about any construction this time either which is not the norm. This is definitely an excuse after the fact for corporate to try and buy time. Not a conspiracy.

  2. I didn’t sign the petition that was being circulated because it was obviously by the wording another way to shake down the corporation. The demands that they treat black people differently than on blacks and “prove they care about black people” is cringe-worthy.

  3. I wrote to them when it was closed and they responded this afternoon with something similar to what is in the article and also wrote: “As is always the case during any unexpected store closure, we are continuing to pay our Crew Members for their scheduled shifts during this time. Additionally, as is also our practice, perishable product that would expire prior to re-opening will be donated to our neighborhood food banks”
    We will see.

  4. Unless there is an amazon-type system to only allow traceable people into the store I don’t see how places can remain in business. The threat of crime, looting, etc. will certainly raise insurance premiums to a point that business is not worth while. I’m not sure why Capitol Hill residents seem to ignore the crime, begging, etc. It has financial implications.

    • Having empathy for others is not mandatory. If you prefer a place where you cannot see the results of our imperfect society you can always move to Bellevue.

    • Because the excuse of closing “effective immediately” due to a “remodel” is clearly an excuse of bullshit. This is one of the higher grossing TJ locations. There is no financial threat to this location.

  5. I heard from an employee this was due to the amount of goods that were stolen from this location. It was getting out of hand, esp since the occupation started. She said word got out that the guard in front could not do anything. TJ’s is upgrading what they hope will be their security. They were sick of getting ripped off.
    She also said they were still paying her.

    • None of the security at QFC do anything either…

      It would be hard work to stand inline for 15-20 minutes to do a little thieving, easier to do that at Safeway without the wait. So I wonder how true it is…

      • I saw a guy last year at the QFC on 15th stand on the ledge of the drinks refrigerator and strangely rummage for something at the back of the shelf for an unusual amount of time. It was a clerk that asked what he was doing and took a picture of him before he ran off with his buddy. Security wasn’t around for some reason.

  6. I hope they reopen and treat their employees well. It would be a shame to lose this location, even more of a shame to boycott (speaking for myself) if they refuse to treat their employees fairly. I’d have a hard time giving up the almond crescents that proof over night, In the meantime, paying folks for scheduled shifts seems pretty friendly. It would be great to hear employees’ side of the story.

  7. Smells like BS to me. Since when does closure for a remodel suddenly occur without a moment’s notice?

    Feels like they’re making up something to take the edge off the story before they change their mind and decide to close for good in retaliation in a few days, after it’s off the news radar.

    Tell us what’s really going on.

      • Corporate got lots of nasty emails and tweets. They talked to their PR folks, who suggested some spin was required. How about a remodel ? Pay everyone for a while until the noise goes down…. Then shut the thing down and fire those union organizing loving CHAZites. Also please remember Germany is in a different time zone so response may be delayed. Kind regards.

  8. Re-opening “in the next week or two” .. sounds like enough time to get rid of and hire some new staff. If multiple employees lose their jobs because of this corporate pettiness, I will no longer shop at ANY Trader Joe’s locations.

  9. I’m not sure I buy corporate’s explanation, but it is good news that they plan to re-open in 1-2 weeks. Let’s hope that actually happens.

  10. I’ve seen several businesses using this time period of the pandemic or other events to do interior work or remodels. TJ on Capitol Hill is a highly visited location and I am sure has many loyal customers but its not a co-op. It is based on a traditional ownership structure in a slim margin business.They could reopen it in two weeks or walk way from the location entirely and be within their rights. If they are paying staff right now that is above and beyond their obligation.

  11. I live across the street from TJ’s and know a lot of the employees. They said no one knew anything about a remodel. They did know that a lot of merchandise left the store without being paid for. The security people aren’t allowed to say anything to the people who steal. A lady who worked at QFC yelled at a guy who was stealing and she got fired. The thief filed a suit saying he was harassed.
    All the lights are off and no one is around.

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