Less than a week after getting fired from Trader Joe’s for requesting better COVID precautions, Ben Bonnema has been rehired at the store on 93rd and Columbus Avenue.
Bonnema took to Twitter following his termination, sharing the letter he sent to Dan Bane, Trader Joe’s CEO. The termination letter said Bonnema didn’t share the grocery chain’s values, also citing “disrespect he showed towards our customers.”
Bonnema’s tweet ended up going viral, generating national media coverage and public outcry from many – including one of the scientists he cited in his letter, David Michaels – who called on the C.D.C. to set air standards for workplaces. Now, Trader Joe’s has decided to bring Bonnema back.
“It’s been a stressful week since then, but it makes sense that they offered to reinstate [me] because it was a completely unlawful termination,” Bonnema said on a telephone call with The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Bonnema’s lawyer, Ben Dictor, issued a statement saying that “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. 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.”
The changes Bonnema asked for included upgrades to the store’s HVAC system, an occupancy limit based on the level of C02 in the store, and stricter face mask requirements for customers – with a three-strike rule for those who don’t follow COVID-19 protocols.
ILTUWS spoke to multiple employees at both Trader Joe’s locations on the Upper West Side. One employee who asked to remain anonymous said they’ve “been going through a lot during the pandemic and it’s nerve-wracking coming in every day when you know you might catch something deadly. God forbid I get COVID and give it to someone I love. Good for Ben, I hope they do something now.”
Another employee simply said “Well done man. We needed that.”
Trader Joe’s hasn’t announced if they’ll be making any of the improvements Bonnema suggested. Still, he plans to be back at work on Monday.