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Union slaps back at Trader Joe’s over new grab-and-go at former wine shop

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Well, that was “pronto.”

The same day Trader Joe’s opened a new grab-and-go store at the site of its former TJ’s Wine Shop near Union Square this week, the national United Food and Commercial Workers International Union promptly blasted the move as “a slap in the face.”

TJ’s abruptly closed its only New York City wine shop in August 2022 as workers there were amidst a union-organizing effort. In response, the workers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

At the time, the budget supermarket chain said it closed the wine store because it was searching for a way to “optimize” the rare wine license. There are only a small number of supermarket wine licenses in New York due to opposition from the liquor store lobby.

As The Village Sun first reported in breaking the story of the Pronto’s opening, while the new grab-and-go offers fare like sandwiches, fresh salads, soups, chips, cut fruit and beverages, there is no wine.

Trader Joe’s opened the new Pronto store on E. 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues on Tues., March 26. The photo above was taken three days before the grand opening. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

Following up on the Sun’s story, the New York Post reported that, in fact, TJ’s has no plans to open up any other Prontos anywhere in the U.S.

“Pronto” was the name of the small California convenience store chain that morphed into Trader Joe’s in 1967. Trader Joe’s original concept was for it to cater to educated and well-traveled, though not necessarily affluent, shoppers.

“Trader Joe’s decision to open a new store in place of its former wine shop, after displacing its former staff without warning, is a giant slap in the face,” the New York City Trader Joe’s Wine Shop Organizing Committee said in a statement, echoing the national union.

In January, the N.L.R.B. filed a complaint charging that Trader Joe’s shuttered its wine shop because of workers’ unionizing campaign. The N.L.R.B. general counsel is reportedly “seeking remedies,” including forcing the grocer to reopen the wine store and reimbursing workers for lost wages.

According to Grocery Dive, a Trader Joe’s spokesperson said the grocer is actively looking for a “suitable location” for a new wine store that will “maximize [its] wine sale potential.”

“It is worth noting every Crew Member who worked in the former wine store was paid for all their scheduled hours, and every Crew Member in the store was offered a position in another Trader Joe’s location of their choice, including our store in Union Square [next door to the new Pronto],” the spokesperson said.

In 2022, the first employee union at a Trader Joe’s was established in Hadley, Massachusetts. Store workers at TJ’s locations in Minneapolis; Louisville, Kentucky; and Oakland, California, have voted to organize. Last spring, workers at a Manhattan outlet held a vote on whether to join Trader Joe’s United, but the effort narrowly lost.

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