On August 11, Trader Joe’s abruptly closed its popular New York wine store. The company posted a note on the East 14th Street outlet’s door informing customers of the closing, noting that it intends “to explore another location” and that employees will be paid for shifts through August 28 and given opportunities to transfer.
The suddenness of the closing immediately raised questions. Why shut down a busy store in a good location? This branch in particular has plenty of fans, including some who go out of their way to shop there. One friend of Grub Street travels from his apartment in the South Bronx to buy wine there.
In the days since the closing was announced, however, more information has come out (along with a number of rumors). Here’s what you need to know:
Employees were trying to unionize.
Workers tell the Huffington Post they were mere days away from going public with their union campaign. One employee named Robert (Rab) Bradlea tells reporter Dave Jamieson that the closing took him completely by surprise and that he believes the company is “hoping this dissuades other workers.” Former employee Jonathan Reuning theorized the closing was “totally to stop the union effort before it can begin.” (Both Bradlea and Reuning were involved in it.) Anthony Small, who supported the union, told the Huffington Post that the suddenness of the closing “doesn’t make good business sense.”
Other Trader Joe’s have also been unionizing.
As the Huffington Post notes, Trader Joe’s hasn’t closed the two stores in Hadley, Massachusetts, and Minneapolis that voted to join Trader Joe’s United. Bradlea argues that closing the wine store is less disruptive than closing a grocery store and that Trader Joe’s is concerned about unionization at its other New York locations. If the store had not closed, the article adds, employees believe the union vote would have been successful.
Could Trader Joe’s want a bigger store?
On Reddit, some users wondered whether the store’s landlord, New York University, played a part in the closing. Some ended up talking about how stupid they think New York liquor laws are, while others threw out possible neighborhoods where the wine store could reopen.
Trader Joe’s now joins Starbucks, Chipotle, Amy’s, and countless other companies in being accused of shutting down stores because of union-organizing efforts.
Since the pandemic, a wave of unionization has struck these major companies, all of which have fought against the organization campaigns. Starbucks employees and Workers United have accused the chain of shutting down stores in retaliation against unionization campaigns. Frozen-food company Amy’s recently shuttered a San Jose, California, plant; its acting CEO pinned the decision on economic issues, including inflation, but employees have pushed back on the claim. After the plant’s sudden closing, some 30 workers protested, alleging mistreatment and sharing that they had tried to unionize a month before the plant closed. In July, Chipotle United filed an NLRB complaint after Chipotle shut down an Augusta, Maine, location where workers were trying to organize.