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Employees say Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s closed store as retaliation for protest participation

caption: The front doors of the Trader Joe’s at 1700 E. Madison St. on June 14th. Signs announcing the indefinite closure were joined by newer ones advocating to reopen the store.
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The front doors of the Trader Joe’s at 1700 E. Madison St. on June 14th. Signs announcing the indefinite closure were joined by newer ones advocating to reopen the store.
KUOW Photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Employees of a popular Trader Joe’s store on Capitol Hill expect to hear on Monday whether the store will reopen.

It was closed indefinitely on Friday. Employees argue that the closure is retaliation for their participation in a Black Lives Matter protest.

Peter Strand has worked at Trader Joe’s on Capitol Hill for just over a year.

Last Friday dozens of employees joined a Black Lives Matter protest, he said, after getting the go-ahead from store managers. But then, the corporate office closed the store indefinitely.

Strand doesn’t think it was a coincidence, he said, and it sends a message.

“Trader Joe’s has publicly voiced support for 'Black crew members and customers' but they’ve done nothing to tangibly support the movement for Black lives, and they’re penalizing employees for supporting the movement.”

Before the closure, employees had been organizing for better working conditions, including better pay, health insurance coverage for more workers, and improved protections against Covid-19, Strand said.

Sunday afternoon, employees launched an online petition for Trader Joe’s to reopen the Capitol Hill location and restore their jobs. Thousands signed on within hours.

The closure means the loss of community and financial security, Strand said.

“We are a tight-knit group, and losing our workplace is losing connection with each other and our neighborhood.”

Update June 16:

On Tuesday afternoon, Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel sent an emailed statement to KUOW

“On Friday, June 12th, we closed our Capitol Hill location on 1700 Madison Street early because we did not have enough Crew Members available to run the store. 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. 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. 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 appreciate that this is an inconvenience and value the patience and understanding of our customers.”

Additionally, she referenced the company’s previous statement in support of “Black Crew Members, customers and communities” and said Trader Joe's leads the industry in compensation and benefits.

“Trader Joe’s Crew Members very much have the right and ability to discuss possible unionization or other collective bargaining-type activity,” Friend-Daniel said. “Trader Joe’s is not anti anything— what we are is pro-Crew Member.”

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