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Why are people boycotting Trader Joe’s? What to know about an employee’s COVID-19 safety concerns

An employee asked for better COVID-19 safety measures. Then he was fired.

Why are people boycotting Trader Joe’s? What to know about an employee’s COVID-19 safety concerns
[Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images]
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If you’ve been on social media the last few days you may have seen the hashtag #BoycottTraderJoes going around. But why exactly are people calling for the boycott of one of the most beloved grocery chains in the country? It all has to do with an employee who was fired after asking for enhanced COVID-19 protections.

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Last Friday, a former Trader Joe’s employee, Ben Bonnema, posted on Twitter that he had just been fired from the New York City store he worked for after he sent a letter to Trader Joe’s CEO, Dan Bane, asking for increased workplace safety regarding COVID-19, reports Insider. The letter laid out steps Trader Joe’s could take to enhance COVID-19 protections, such as limiting store capacity based on C02 levels, improving filtration, and adopting a “three strikes” policy to remove uncooperative people from stores.

Bonnema ended his letter by saying “we put our lives on the line every day by showing up to work. Please, show up for us by adopting these policies.”

The result of his letter? Bonnema said he was fired. Bonnema then posted the termination letter Trader Joe’s sent him. The termination letter accused Bonnema of not understanding Trader Joe’s “values” due to the “three strikes” suggestion and the inference that Trader Joe’s was not showing up for employees without adopting Bonnema’s suggestions.

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Shortly after Bonnema’s tweets went viral, people on social media started calling for a boycott.

As for Trader Joe’s, the company issued a statement to Insider insisting they fired Bonnema for the “disrespect he showed toward our customers” rather than over the fact that Bonnema asked the company to implement workplace safety measures that would help keep its employees and Trader Joe’s customers from getting sick simply by stepping foot in its stores.

“We have never, and would never, terminate a Crew Member’s employment for raising safety concerns,” the spokesperson said. “Nothing is more important at Trader Joe’s than the safety of our Crew Members and customers . . . We encourage all Crew Members to take an active role in store safety, and share their suggestions with leadership. During his short tenure with Trader Joe’s, this Crew Member’s suggestions were listened to, and appropriately addressed.”

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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