A committee made up of booksellers and non-managerial staff at Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., has sent a letter to store owner Casey Coonerty Protti asking her to voluntarily recognize their joining with the Communication Workers of America Local 9423.

"We felt we could garner greater support as a collective rather than as individuals," the organizers said in a statement online asking for support. "2020 has been a difficult year for small businesses everywhere and we hope to collaborate with management to create a sustainable path forward for one of the only independent bookstores in the area.”

Among reasons for organizing, the employees specifically cite the fact that they do not have health insurance as a key factor—particularly considering the risks associated with working in the store throughout the pandemic. "While some managers have been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic, several of the public-facing workers have asthma or other health conditions and were only given permission to work off the sales floor after prolonged self-advocating," the organizers said.

The organizers added that they are seeking "job security, an option for healthcare, and additional employee support systems." Earlier this year, in a collective action at the store, booksellers sought to have Plexiglass screens installed and pushed for the enforcement of a mask requirement for employees and customers.

In March, when the store went into lockdown at the start of the pandemic, Coonerty Protti said the store employed approximately 45 people, though some have since left due to health concerns. Of the situation at the time, she said: "It’s incredibly difficult. These are such dedicated booksellers who’ve given everything to the store," noting that several employees have worked at the store for more than four decades.