The beloved Trader Joe’s Wine Shop in Union Square — which outraged New Yorkers when it abruptly shuttered in 2022 — could reopen in response to a union-busting complaint filed against the grocer.
The complaint, filed by the National Labor Relations Board, alleged that Trader Joe’s shut down the store to prevent its workers from unionizing.
Prosecutors have also accused the grocer — which reportedly sells nearly double the amount of goods per square foot as its rivals — of firing a union supporter and spreading false information to snuff out any unionizing campaigns among staffers, according to HuffPost.
To remedy the situation, Trader Joe’s must reopen the wine shop and reimburse employees for any wages they lost, the NLRB said in the Jan. 12 complaint.
Trader Joe’s attorney, however, argued during a hearing earlier this month that the labor board itself is “unconstitutional,” according to a court transcript obtained by HuffPost.
The store’s counsel, Christopher Murphy of Morgan Lewis, told the judge that Trader Joe’s would be making the “affirmative defense” now so that it could argue it in full later.
Though Murphy has yet to expand on the defense in court, his tactic appears to be similar to that of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which also recently said in federal court that that the NLRB violates the constitutional separation of powers as well as the right to due process, calling the board “the very definition of tyranny,” HuffPost reported.
Also like SpaceX, Trader Joe’s is being represented by a lawyer represented by Morgan Lewis — a firm known for helping employers battle unions, per the outlet.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million grocery workers across the US, has endorsed the NLRB’s accusations against Trader Joe’s, adding in a press release accompanying the unfair labor practice allegations that it “illegally shutting down the store in an effort to union bust.”
“Trader Joe’s also illegally polled store employees and discouraged crew members from supporting the union by saying that supporting the union would be futile,” the statement added.
When the budget-friendly store closed down on Aug. 11, 2022, a notice on its door said that it was “time for us to explore another location that will allow us to optimize the potential of our one and only license to sell wine in New York.”
Loyal customers who read the letter told More Perfect Union at the time that it sounded like “they must have shut it down so they could open another one in a higher-end neighborhood.”
Another user on social media questioned: “Now that Trader Joe’s Wine Shop has closed, where will we go?”
“For a place that promotes itself as progressive and ethical, specializing in fair trade goods, this action doesn’t fit the hype,” yet another chimed in.
However, the Wine Shop, which had been located directly next to the Trader Joe’s grocery store at 142 E. 14th St., reportedly closed its doors after 15 years just days before its employees were planning to call a union election.
The workers wanted to organize with the UFCW, wanting higher compensation and better sick pay.
Maura McHugh, a Trader Joe’s Wine Shop staffer, said in a promotional video for unionizing on the UFCW’s website that “wages are not competition. A lot of crew members have to work full time and another part-time job just to make ends meet. That happens a lot at Trader Joe’s.”
Representatives for the UFCW and NLRB did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
The Post has also sought comment from Trader Joe’s.