New York Barnes & Noble workers are pushing to put the “union” in the Union Square location of the bookstore giant.
Workers at Barnes Barnes & Noble’s flagship store filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday seeking representation under the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The Union Square store’s push for a union vote follows similar actions from two other Barnes & Noble-affiliated stores in the northeast. The Barnes & Noble Education store on the Rutgers University campus (technically a separate franchise) in New Jersey filed for union election under RWDSU earlier this month, as did workers at Barnes & Noble in Hadley, MA, who are working with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459.
The New York workers cited desire for enhanced store safety protocols, new training, wages that reflect the cost of living in the city and favoritism at the store in their reasons for organizing.
“I’m organizing for pay raises in a city where the cost of living is rapidly increasing, but our wages are not. In addition, workers’ safety is consistently brushed aside in exchange for high profits while we suffer the consequences,” said bookseller Kaitlyn Keel in a press release.
A delegation of worker organizers from the store gathered union cards from a majority of the more than 100 workers who work in the store that were in favor of unionization, according to RWSDU. The delegation took those results to management and asked them to voluntarily recognize the union and start contract negotiations, but company representatives refused to do so.
A Barnes & Noble spokesperson said the company will not be commenting on the union vote at this time.
WE’RE UNIONIZING!!!!! barnes & noble union square workers are united ✊ biggest b&n in the world babyyyyy pic.twitter.com/8703wWao22
— sippin on that (@vivafalastin) April 28, 2023
Workers said that their pay at the flagship store was below that of other independent booksellers. They also said they hoped to improve workplace organization around scheduling practices and well-defined duties and tasks. They emphasized that safety, especially in the Union Square area, has been a continuous source of stress at this stage during the pandemic.
“We’re working at the Flagship store in the middle of Union Square, in New York City and we don’t have the proper training we need to handle the conflicts that arise at our store. As the city rebounds from the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in homeless and combative customers in our stores and we want to keep ourselves and other customers safe,” said Desiree Nelson, a lead bookseller.
Members of the proposed bargaining unit for the Union Square include booksellers, baristas, cashiers and all non-supervisory employees. The union said that the NLRB could set the Union Square store election for as early as next month.
The election for the Rutgers Barnes and Noble College store is set for May 12.