401k Update — Trader Joe's United! (2024)

This is a detailed summary of what happened during the bargaining process for the 2022 401K benefit. We believe that throughout this process Trader Joe’s was attempting to trick us into waiving rights to participation in our retirement plan. We very much wanted to accept their offer across the table, but as you will see, that wouldn’t have been a smart move…

The 401k bonus (which has been given to all non-unionized stores) was offered at the bargaining table on November 29th and 30th in Minneapolis. At that session, the company presented a proposal offering the bonus with legal “poison pills,” aka completely unacceptable terms:

  1. A clause that asked us to waive our rights to file charges around the implementation of the bonus, which would have tied our hands should the company botch any part of delivering the bonus.

  2. A clause that contained language that could exclude us from the 401k plan altogether.

It would be foolish to waive our rights to file charges about things that haven’t happened yet, and we know that crew at both stores want to remain in our current plan, so both of these clauses were unacceptable, and we spent a lot of time at the table pushing back on these items.

Repeatedly, the company’s legal team left the table to make changes to the language and each time returned with slightly different wording that meant the same thing. At the end of this session in MN, we gave Trader Joe’s a counterproposal with the language needed to protect our rights to file charges and remain in the plan, and went home with the issue unresolved.

The next day, our counsel had a phone conversation with Trader Joe’s counsel, in the hopes of finding a path to an agreement. During this conversation, both parties verbally confirmed our right to stay in the plan, but Trader Joe’s would not put that in writing. Other than that, we had reached an agreement, and the written proposal did not have any problematic language.

The local presidents at each store signed the agreement, with each signing both copies to show our commitment to joint bargaining. Our lawyers sent the agreement to Trader Joe’s via email, with a cover letter confirming the verbal agreement of our right to stay in our current plan between now and the ratification of a first contract. See email screenshot below.

We were stunned and at this point, the deal was off. We could not agree to anything that would waive our right to remain in the plan, and because of this email from Trader Joe’s, moving forward with this agreement would constitute a waiver of that right. See email screenshot below:

At that point we thought the issue was over. But this past week, during negotiations in Hadley, the company came back yet again with their proposal for the 401k bonus. In a sidebar with Trader Joe’s legal team, the Trader Joe’s United legal team and a few members of the Bargaining Committee asked for Trader Joe’s to confirm our right to remain in the plan between now and a first contract, either through language added to the proposal itself, or a retraction of their email.

The company refused to acknowledge our right to remain in the plan in any way, meaning that an acceptance of their proposal would still constitute a waiver, and we would be vulnerable to being booted from the plan if we signed.

We returned to our meeting room and the Bargaining Committee and our legal team discussed the issue. It was very clear to us, because of the many, many times the company has presented this proposal, that they REALLY wanted us to sign it, and by doing that sign away our right to remain in the plan.

The Bargaining Committee members present voted unanimously to reject their proposal. When Trader Joe’s legal team returned to the table, we informed them of our decision.

We feel confident that we made the right decision to protect our right to remain in our current retirement plan. Had we waived that right, the letters from Trader Joe’s hung up all over our break rooms and punch clocks right now might not be about the bonus, but about being booted from the plan entirely.

As it stands now, although we rejected the written proposal offered by the company, the company continued to offer the plan through Dayforce and in person. Our counsel has advised us that these count as offers–and at the negotiation table and via email we let Trader Joe’s know that we accept those offers too, and our legal team assures us that one way or another, we will get this bonus. (See email screenshot below). The company has also put in writing that both unionized stores are receiving the 401k benefit from 2021.

In an email to Trader Joe’s counsel yesterday, our amazing lawyer Retu responded to them with the simple question below. All we need is one word, YES, and we’d have a deal, but Trader Joe’s has been silent. (see email screenshot below).

401k Update — Trader Joe's United! (2024)
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