Trader Joe’s worker says he was fired after advocating for COVID-19 safety protections [Updated]

 People stand in line outside Trader Joe's
Photo: Noam Galai (Getty Images)

Update, March 5, 2021: Ben Bonnema will clock in once more. The Daily Beast reports that, as of Wednesday, Trader Joe’s is reinstating Bonnema. “It’s been a stressful week since then, but it makes sense that they offered to reinstate because it was a completely unlawful termination,” Bonnema told The Daily Beast yesterday.

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Bonnema’s lawyer, Ben Dictor, added that legal action still isn’t out of the question. “While we are pleased that Mr. Bonnema has been rightfully reinstated, we will continue to take all necessary legal action to repair his reputation that has been disparaged by the company through false accusations that my client engaged in misconduct,” Dictor said, referring to the official Trader Joe’s statement linked in the original article below. “We are also committed to ensuring that no essential workers of Trader Joe’s face any further retaliation for raising concerns about their working conditions.”

No word yet on whether or not OSHA will entertain Bonnema’s concerns about improving air-filtration systems in Trader Joe’s stores.

Original post, March 2, 2021: It’s hard to imagine everything grocery store workers face showing up to work every day. They’re asked to prioritize customer service in the face of anti-maskers, negligible pay, and demanding hours—all while struggling to make their voices heard amid fluctuating safety protocols. Now Ben Bonnema, a Trader Joe’s employee in New York City says he was fired after writing directly to the chain’s CEO calling for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols.

Bonnema posted the letter on Twitter on Saturday, February 26, alleging that he was fired after sending it. In the letter, Bonnema asks that the store improve its air filtration by upgrading its in-store HVAC systems, not allow anyone inside the store without a mask, and adopt a “three strikes” policy for removing customers who refuse to comply with masking guidelines.

“We put our lives on the line everyday by showing up to work. Please, show up for us by adopting these policies,” Bonnema said in his letter. After Bonnema posted his termination letter, the post went viral on social media and inspired calls for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.

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Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s, told CNN that there was “misinformation” online about Bonnema’s termination. “Store leadership terminated this Crew Member’s employment because of the disrespect he showed toward our customers.” She declined to provide specifics, saying: “We have never, and would never, terminate a Crew Member’s employment for raising safety concerns. We encourage all Crew Members to take an active role in store safety, and share their suggestions with leadership.”

CNN reports that Bonnema’s next step is working with his lawyer to “obtain an order from the National Labor Relations Board directing Bonnema’s immediate reinstatement.” We’ll keep an eye on TJ’s to see if the company honors Bonnema’s requests.

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Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

It’s all very sketch when the corporate PR refuses to provide any details regarding how the ex-employee specifically disrespected customers. I’d expect TJ’s to not want to be embroiled in this controversy and there’s no better way out of it than to show exactly why the employee was fired, how it was NOT because of the letter. The lack of such detailed info speaks volumes to the contrary of TJ’s official stand.