Ben Bonnema, a Trader Joe’s employee at a store in New York City, wrote an email to Trader Joe’s chief executive Dan Bane on February 26 urging the store to improve its air filtration, not allow anyone inside the store without a mask and adopt a “3 strikes” policy for removing uncooperative customers.
“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.
Bonnema on Saturday posted the letter on Twitter and said he was fired for sending it to the CEO. He also posted a termination letter he received from Trader Joe’s. Bonnema’s account went viral on social media and prompted calls for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.
Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s, said Monday in an email 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.
“We have never, and would never, terminate a Crew Member’s employment for raising safety concerns,” she added. “We encourage all Crew Members to take an active role in store safety, and share their suggestions with leadership. “
Bonnema, in his letter, cited recent recommendations from scientists and occupational health experts calling on the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control to address Covid-19 exposure through airborne transmission.
“We should be following the guidelines of scientists who study respiratory transmission,” he said.
Bonnema also said Trader Joe’s should upgrade its HVAC systems in stores and limit store capacity based on carbon dioxide levels. He said no one should be allowed inside the store without a mask, even people with disabilities, and said Trader Joe’s would still be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act because it offers to shop for customers who can’t wear masks.
Trader Joe’s declined comment on Bonnema’s letter.
Some of the experts who signed the letter to the Biden administration also offered their support of Bonnema on Twitter.
“We wrote this letter to protect people like Ben. His letter is an excellent science-based request,” Kimberly Prather, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, said on Twitter. “We have been shopping there for 20 yrs. We will stop until Trader Joe’s takes this seriously.”
Bonnema declined request for an interview through his lawyer Benjamin Dictor, who said that he and his client would look to obtain an order from the National Labor Relations Board directing Bonnema’s immediate reinstatement.