Barnes & Noble Manhattan flagship store workers unionize with RWDSU
Workers at the flagship Manhattan Barnes and Nobles store voted overwhelmingly to unionize with RDWSU | B&N Workers Union

NEW YORK —With an overwhelming vote, workers at Barnes & Noble’s flagship Manhattan store, a multi-story emporium crammed to each ceiling with books, unionized with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

When certified as their rep, the union will represent 185 workers, and it said 97% of those casting ballots supported going union. It’s the third B&N store to go union this year, and there soon may be a fourth.

On June 5, the National Labor Relations Board certified United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459 had won the election at the B&N store in Hadley, Mass., 11-0. And the board’s regional office just set a June 29 election date, for RWDSU versus no union, among the 32 workers at B&N’s store on Seventh Ave. in Brooklyn.

The other unionized store, and third with RWDSU, is the Barnes & Noble College Bookstore at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The college bookstore division is separate from the B&N chain.

Workers at the flagship Manhattan B&N store “face continued safety issues amid the rebound of the pandemic, including workplace harassment, substandard pay for the industry below that of independent booksellers, unstable scheduling practices, a lack of structure” in “job duties and tasks at work, and favoritism by management,” RWDSU said in a statement.

The B&N workers plan to take up all those issues, and more, when they start bargaining. The other issues at the big book emporium, lead bookseller Desiree Nelson told RWDSU during the organizing drive include lack of “proper training we need to handle the conflicts that arise at our store.

“We’ve seen an increase in homeless and combative customers…and we want to keep ourselves and other customers safe. We need added safety measures only a union contract can provide.” Those include “conflict resolution training and safety protocols.”

The store is also short-staffed with management assigning workers to tasks they’re not cross-trained for, “or properly compensated for,” Nelson added. It’s short of equipment and “we’re stretched thin.

“With a union we’d win the pay, needed benefits and long-overdue training and safety resources we need to attract more co-workers and adequately staff the store so our customers have a safer and better experience shopping with us,” said Nelson stated.

“I’m organizing for pay raises in a city where the cost of living is rapidly increasing, but our wages are not, Union Square bookseller Kaitlyn Keel told RWDSU then. “In addition, workers’ safety is consistently brushed aside in exchange for high profits while we suffer the consequences.”

“We still have work ahead of ourselves, but today we have shown how dedicated we are to improving our store for ourselves and each other,” senior bookseller Jessica Sepple said after the vote was announced. “We are ready to create a better workplace and a better future for Barnes & Noble employees.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.