It quite literally pales in comparison to the fight for equality and against police brutality underway a few blocks away. But Friday night, Capitol Hill’s Trader Joe’s closed early and a paper sign on the door says the grocery store is closed “indefinitely” — without explanation.
CHS has calls out to the corporate office in Monrovia, California of the privately traded, somewhat secretive grocery chain of more than 500 stores coast to coast to find out more.
Calls to area Trader Joe’s stores only yielded confirmation of the closure. The store’s page on the Trader Joe’s website shows a message that it is “temporarily closed.”
UPDATE 6/14/20 12:50 PM: A group of workers has launched a campaign to push back on the closure and are asking for community support to keep the store open as they say the management is retaliating over employee participation in Friday’s Black Lives Matter protest and general strike. Here’s the statement from savetjs130.com:
On June 11, dozens of workers at Trader Joe’s Capitol Hill (Store #130) informed store management that they would be participating in the June 12 protest organized by the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. Store managers determined that broad participation in the protest would lead to staffing issues, and decided to close the store early on June 12. Store management assured workers participating in the protest that this would be considered an excused absence and would not result in any disciplinary measures. But on the morning of June 12, a representative from TJs corporate called the store to ask about the early closure. Unsatisfied with the rationale for the early closure, corporate informed store management that the store would be closed indefinitely, effective immediately.
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. We know that the company will try to avoid the appearance of being antagonistic to the movement. They will likely cite “personnel issues,” “safety concerns,” or operating costs as rationale for the store closure. What they really mean when they cite “personnel issues” is that they saw our store as a hot spot for worker organizing. TJs corporate has aggressively squashed worker organizing for years and has a long record of retaliation. This is the most dramatic retaliation any TJs store has seen to date, but it is not an isolated incident. Prior to the abrupt store closure, we had been organizing to secure a living wage, health insurance for all workers, and basic protections against COVID-19. “The large majority of us were already living paycheck to paycheck,” says Store #130 crew member Peter Strand. “Many of us were working without health insurance while risking steady exposure to the public in the midst of a pandemic.”
While Trader Joe’s has publicly voiced support for “Black crew members and customers,” the company has done nothing to tangibly support the movement for Black lives, and they have penalized employees for supporting the movement. While the company insists that they value crew member feedback and support crew-led solutions, they have consistently disregarded our insights and requests. We know what it would take for the store to run smoothly, and we want to be in conversation with store management about solutions.
We are saddened by the store closure. For each of us, it means both a loss of community and a loss of financial security in the midst of an economic downturn. We recognize it’s a loss for our neighborhood as well, and we hope the community will join us in demanding that Trader Joe’s reopen Store #130 and restore our jobs immediately. We’ve heard that TJs corporate will make a final decision about the closure this coming Monday. We’ll be prepared with a response regardless of the decision.
You can go directly to the group’s petition here.
Employee group spokesperson Peter Strand tells CHS that they believe the company will listen to its customers. Trader Joe’s does have a history of listening to customer feedback,” he said, “so we think that the best angle is to have customers speak up.”
Trader Joe’s has not “come out with a full rationale” for the closure, Strand says, leaving the employees in the challenging place of waiting — or acting on the situation.
Strand said the actions by the parent company were swift and unexpected. “We were all surprised by the news and mobilized,” he said. “We know that Trader Joe’s will come out with its own version of events.”
Original report: The 1700 E Madison store has gone through some bumpy times with COVID-19 restrictions limiting hours. It also closed without notice for a day or two earlier this month but this time seems to have brought a longer shuttering.
While the store is not far from the protest area, it is far enough away that the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone should not be a factor in any decision to keep the doors closed. Other store have closed due to COVID-19 cleanings but those aren’t usually multi-day efforts.
Nearby Central Co-op will help pick up some of the slack as will the Whole Foods that opened at Broadway and Madison in 2018. The 23rd and E Madson Safeway is a few block walk to the east and a new PCC is set to open next week at 23rd and Union.
Meanwhile, the E Madison TJ’s appears to be shuttered for the weekend and hours posted online through next Thursday — as far out as they’ll display — show the store as closed.
UPDATE 6/15/20 1:15 PM: Trader Joe’s has responded with a statement on the situation and says the “temporary” closure is for a one to two week renovation project:
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