Rockridge Trader Joes and the Difficulty of a Contract

Workers at the Rockridge Trader Joe’s in Oakland, California, voted on April 20 in favor of unionization by a vote of 73 to 53. The Rockridge Trader Joe’s is the fourth Trader Joe’s in the country to unionize, after 3 other stores in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Kentucky voted to form a union with Trader Joe’s United (TJU). 

The Rockridge Trader Joe’s victory is a victory for rank and file TJU organizers. But the real fight still remains ahead. The bosses have all the advantages in the stifling labor laws of the US. Now that the Rockridge Trader Joe’s have won a union, they will now have to win their first contract. And the bosses are going to do everything they can to prevent that from happening. So far, Trader Joe’s United has made slow progress in negotiating this first contract. Trader Joe’s has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board to challenge union victories, as well as filing baseless complaints alleging that TJU has bargained in bad faith. None of these complaints have any merit, but they don’t need to: they’re simply one more way for the boss to delay and tie up union resources.

This delaying tactic is common across workplaces. Amazon Labor Union, which won the first union election at Amazon at a warehouse in Staten Island a year ago, has still not won a first contract. Amazon has been dragging its feet for as long as possible to delay the beginning of bargaining for a first contract. The company has hurled dozens of formal complaints against the union to force it through long, bureaucratic legal processes before bargaining begins.

These new unionization struggles are heroic, but they also highlight the power of the bosses to disrupt and delay bargaining. This is the power that they have under capitalism. The state itself and its laws are written for the interests of the rich, while workers fighting for even minor concessions like better pay or benefits face an uphill battle. Fighting for a union and a first contract is a valiant struggle, but we won’t have real democratic control over our lives until we end this capitalist system and take political power away from the rich and their state.