The incident happened on July 14 in New York City’s Murray Hill location, where the men, both in their 30s, engaged in the attack just before the store closed for the day, Vice reports.
One customer tore a mask off an employee’s face after the employee asked the customers to wear face coverings, beat a worker on the head with a wooden paddle, and pulled a third employee’s hair. The employee who was hit over the head (with the wooden paddle that Trader Joe’s cashiers use during checkout) was bleeding from the head and had to be hospitalized, according to an employee who was present during the incident. Trader Joe’s hasn’t publicly addressed the situation.
“Don’t make me get my gun,” one of the customers shouted, according to an NYPD spokesperson.
Customers and employees are obligated to wear masks inside the store; the only exceptions are children and people who suffer from certain medical conditions and can’t wear a face covering.
An employee told the outlet that after entering the store, one of the men told a worker that masks wouldn’t be a requirement after the November election, implying that Trump would be reelected. The employee added that the customers attacked seven workers and three managers during the incident, and even threw grocery baskets at employees.
The NYPD spokesperson couldn’t confirm the number of workers who were involved. However, the spokesperson did reveal that one of the men started smashing a chair into the front window, in order to get back inside. Both men were arrested.
Employees told Vice that Trader Joe’s hasn’t openly addressed the altercation so as not to scare customers. The store also didn’t notify the employees of the attack, even though it took place two weeks ago.
“The mentality of our store is that it cares more about making money, and doesn’t want a dip in sales. I’m not surprised that the attack wasn’t covered by the media,” the employee who witnessed the attack told the outlet. “They didn’t want people to be afraid to come back into the store.”
“There has been absolutely no media coverage of [the assaults] because [Trader Joe’s] is doing its very best to sweep it under the rug,” a second employee told Vice. “Staff not present, such as myself, weren’t even told this happened afterward.”
Trader Joe’s has come under fire for not looking after its employees during COVID-19. At the pandemic’s outset, the Coalition for a Trader Joe’s Union petitioned the company for hazard pay. After receiving the requisite 10,000 signatures, the company created a “special bonus pool,” where each worker essentially got a temporary raise of $2 an hour. Some employees say they were also instructed not to wear face masks or gloves in some locations, including the Murray Hill store, at the beginning of New York City’s outbreak.
“We are putting ourselves at risk every day. We are forced to come to work to do our jobs because we have no other choice. To see my family here get punched and hurt because some customers think they’re better than us is not OK,” the worker who witnessed the attack said. “Don’t hurt people who are not at fault. We’re just trying to stay safe and not die.”