Posted on March 1, 2021 at 8:45 pm by West Sider
An employee at the Trader Joe’s store on Columbus Avenue and 93rd Street says he was fired after asking the store to add safety measures to keep employees and customers safe from Covid-19.
Employee Ben Bonemma posted a letter on Twitter that he said he sent to the Trader Joe’s CEO, claiming he was fired because of it.
trader joe’s just fired me for sending this letter to the ceo, saying i don’t share the company values. i guess advocating for a safer workplace isn’t a company value? pic.twitter.com/3TKi5B8HSJ
— Ben Bonnema (@BenBonnema) February 26, 2021
The letter asks that Trader Joe’s add better filters to the store, limit store capacity based on carbon dioxide levels, and not allow people inside if they refuse to wear a mask. If people are uncooperative, they should get three strikes and then be kicked out, he wrote. He wrote that he had been shouted at by a customer who was not wearing his mask properly.
Bonnema then posted a termination letter he says he got from the store, on Trader Joe’s letterhead. The letter cited his suggestion to institute a “3 strikes” rule as “not in line with our core Values.”
“It is clear that you do not understand our Values. As a result, we are no longer comfortable having you work for Trader Joe’s.”
here’s the letter they gave me pic.twitter.com/BeYmopbmJ3
— Ben Bonnema (@BenBonnema) February 26, 2021
There has been other reporting about safety concerns among crew members at this store. Bonnema wrote that he supports a Trader Joe’s union for reasons like this.
Bonnema posted replies from scientists who say that his suggestions are good ones.
A company spokesperson, however, wrote to West Side Rag that Bonnema was not fired because of the letter.
“Thank you for the opportunity to correct some misinformation that is circulating on the internet about the circumstances of this Crew Member’s employment with Trader Joe’s. 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. Store leadership terminated this Crew Member’s employment because of the disrespect he showed toward our customers. We have never, and would never, terminate a Crew Member’s employment for raising safety concerns.”
Bonnema, however, also posted a positive performance review on Twitter, Buzzfeed noted. And he has retained a lawyer who plans to take his case to the National Labor Relations Board.
A customer of this Trader Joe’s store shared with us a letter he also sent to the company’s CEO Dan Bane.
Hello Mr. Bane,
I write to you as a concerned regular customer of Trader Joe’s Store 545 in New York’s Upper West Side. Shopping at Trader Joe’s provides me with regular access to high quality products at an affordable price. I have come to view Trader Joe’s as not just an admirable company, but as a member of my community that contributes to our neighborhood in a meaningful way.
I was shocked and disappointed to hear the news that your company decided to fire Ben Bonnema for sharing concerns and offering actionable solutions to improve the health of his Crew Mates and customers. It is my hope that you will use this as a teachable moment with your management staff and an opportunity to lead the business community in setting a strong example of the right way to respond to this ongoing crisis.
You can do this by:
- Embracing your Core Value of Integrity by publicly apologizing to Mr. Bonnema, your Crew Mates, and your customers for the actions of your management team and recommitting to the safety of your stores and a fair and equitable workplace. Then rehire Mr. Bonnema at his previous pay rate, providing a spot bonus to supplement any lost income that resulted from this regrettable incident. By taking these actions, you will show that the commitment of Trader Joe’s to its customers and staff is unmatched. The customers looking over your shoulder will smile and say thank you.
- Embracing your Core Value of Kaizen by providing a spot bonus or commendation to employees that provide actionable concerns and suggestions to improve customer and Crew Mate safety during the pandemic. By listening to these concerns and responding to them, you will improve your customers’ loyalty, Crew Mates’ commitment, and set a positive model in the business community. You will show that you truly work together as the leader of a team, not just the head of a company.
- Embrace your Core Value of Neighborhood Engagement by making Store 545 the first Trader Joe’s to adopt the safety precautions implied and suggested by Mr. Bonnema in his letter (which is copied below for ease of reference). By taking this action, you reassure the neighborhood of the Upper West Side that your company does stand by the commitment it has made to making our neighborhood better, and your stores a strong member of our community.
I implore you to rise to the moment as a leader in the business community. Your company is better than this. You are better than this. The world is watching and you can choose to lead or be another dark story in trying times.
I hope you choose to lead.
Longtime customer of Trader Joe’s and resident of the Upper West Side