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In a sign that service industry workers continue to have a keen interest in unionizing after successful votes at Starbucks, REI and Amazon, employees at Trader Joe’s in western Massachusetts have filed for a union election. If they win, they will create the only union at Trader Joe’s, which has more than 500 locations and 50,000 employees across the country.

The filing before the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday night seeks an election involving about 85 employees who would form an independent union, Trader Joe’s United, rather than join an established labor organization. That echoes the independent union created by Amazon workers on Staten Island and the worker-led organization at Starbucks.

“Over the last few years, however, changes have taken place without our consent,” said Maeg Yosef, an 18-year-old store employee who is a union campaign leader. “We wanted to be in charge of the whole process, to be our own union. So we decided to be independent.”

Ms. Yosef said the union had the support of more than 50 percent of the store’s workers, known as crew members.

“We have always said that we welcome a fair vote and are prepared to hold a vote if more than 30 percent of the crew wants one,” said a company spokeswoman, Nakia Rohde, referring to the NLRB’s threshold for an election. “We are not interested in delaying the process in any way.”

The company shared a similar statement with workers after they announced their intention to unionize in mid-May.

Explaining their decision, Ms. Yosef and four colleagues, who have been with the company for at least eight years, cited changes that had made their benefits less generous over time, as well as health and safety concerns, many of them which were magnified during the pandemic.

“This is probably where we get all these things coming together,” said Tony Falco, another worker involved in the union campaign, alluding to covid-19.

Falco said the store, in Hadley, took several reassuring steps during the first 12 to 15 months of the pandemic. Management enforced masking requirements and restrictions on the number of customers that could be in the store at one time. It allowed workers to take leave while continuing to receive health insurance and gave workers an additional “thank you” pay of up to $4 an hour.

But Falco and others said the company was quick to reverse many of these measures, including paying extra, as vaccines became widely available last year, noting that the store had suffered from Covid outbreaks in recent weeks after the masks became more lax. . The store followed the policy of the local board of health, which modified its mask mandate at several points, most recently lifting it in March.

Some employees were also upset that the company failed to inform them that the state had passed a law requiring employers to give up to five paid days off to workers who missed work due to COVID.

“It was in place for seven months and they never announced it,” Ms. Yosef said. “I realized that in late December, early January.”

Ms. Rohde, the spokeswoman, said that this version was incorrect, but four other employees who support the union also said that the company had not informed them of the policy.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Trader Joe’s has generally resisted unionization over the years, even early in the pandemic. In March 2020, CEO Dan Bane sent employees a letter referring to “the current spate of union activity that has targeted Trader Joe’s” and complaining that union advocates “clearly believe that now is a time where some can create a kind of wedge in our company through which they can create discontent.”

The company’s response to the current campaign seems a little less hostile, although union organizers have recently filed charges of unfair labor practices, such as asking employees to remove their pro-union pins.

Several employees said a broader issue underlay their frustrations: what they saw as the company’s evolution from a niche outlet known for pampering customers and treating employees lavishly to an industrial-scale chain that focuses on more in the final result.

The company’s employee handbook urges workers to deliver an “amazing customer experience,” which it defines as “the feelings a customer has about our delight that they’re shopping with us.” But veteran employees say the company, which is privately owned, has gradually become more stingy with workers.

For years, the company offered health care extensively to part-time workers. In the early 2010s, the company raised the average weekly hours employees needed to qualify for comprehensive health coverage from about 20 to 30, informing those who no longer qualified that they could receive coverage under the Federal Insurance Act. Low Price Health Care. (The company lowered the threshold to 28 hours more recently.)

“It was done under the guise of ‘You can get these plans, they’re the same plans,’ but they weren’t the same plans,” said Sarah Yosef, a Hadley store manager at the time, who later walked away from the role and is now a frontline worker there.

“I had to sit there individually with the crew members saying that they would lose their health insurance,” added Ms. Yosef, who is married to Maeg Yosef.

Retirement benefits have followed a similar path: Around the same time, Trader Joe’s lowered its retirement contribution to 10 percent of an employee’s earnings from about 15 percent, for employees age 30 and older. From last year’s benefit, the company again lowered the percentage for many workers, who saw the contribution fall to 5 percent. The company no longer specifies any fixed amount.

Credit…Holly Lynton for The New York Times

Ms. Rohde, the spokeswoman, said the change was in part a response to indications from many workers that they would prefer a bonus to a retirement contribution.

Workers said the company’s determination to provide an intimate shopping experience had often come at their expense amid a rapid rise in business over the past decade, and then again with a resurgence in business when Restrictions have been lifted due to the pandemic.

For example, Trader Joe’s does not have conveyor belts in checkout lines and instructs cashiers to reach into customers’ carts or baskets to unload items. This may seem like it personalizes service, but it comes at a physical cost to workers, who typically bow hundreds of times during a shift.

(The company asks workers to perform different tasks throughout the day so they aren’t constantly calling customers.)

Maeg Yosef and her co-workers began discussing the union campaign over the winter, angry that the store failed to publicize the state-mandated paid leave benefit and change in retirement benefits, with some inspired by successful union elections. at Starbucks, Amazon and REI.

Your union campaign can also benefit from the same clout that workers at those companies enjoyed as a result of the relatively tight job market.

“People keep leaving, I know they want to hire people now,” said Maeg Yosef. “It’s hard to keep people close.”

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