Workers at the Barnes & Noble flagship store in New York City's Union Square have voted 97% in favor of joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

In a press release announcing the decision on June 7, the RWDSU said it will represent over 100 workers at the store in contract negotiations, commencing this year. The workers in the proposed bargaining units include booksellers, baristas, cashiers, and all non-supervisory employees at the store.

Senior bookseller Jessica Sepple said she was "proud" of her coworkers and "excited to move forward as a unionized bookstore" and RWDSU member. "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," she said. "We are ready to create a better workplace and a better future for Barnes & Noble employees.”

Barnes & Noble Union Square has become the third store of the giant bookseller to unionize, with workers at the store citing workplace safety issues, substandard pay, and unstable working conditions as reasons for their organizing efforts. Last month, Barnes & Noble workers in Hadley, Mass., joined the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1459, and workers at B&N's Park Slope, Brooklyn, location voted to hold a union election. In addition, workers at Barnes & Noble College Booksellers at Rutgers University—a store operated by the separate company Barnes & Noble Education—unanimously voted to join the RWDSU.

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said that unionization has also been gaining momentum among independent bookstores. RWDSU represents workers at bookstores including McNally Jackson, Goods for the Study, Greenlight Bookstore, and Book Culture.

“Together, with their colleagues in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and just across the water in Brooklyn, Barnes & Noble workers in Union Square have sent a message all across the nation—the bookstore industry can and must treat workers with dignity and respect," said Appelbaum. "Workers at this store not only organized and won their union voice, but they did so with management literally above their heads in the corporate headquarters, which is housed just above the store in the same building."

Through unionization, the workers set an example for Barnes & Noble workers across the country that "change is possible in the industry," said Appelbaum. Barnes & Noble Union Square senior barista Victoria Sedita shared that joining the union will provide the bookstore's cafe workers a chance to bargain for a wage that reflects the "rigorous level of work we perform during each shift."

"Time and time again, Barnes & Noble has treated their baristas like secondary employees to their booksellers," said Sedita. "Many do not understand the level of work that is required to run their cafes. Now, we have a chance to safely advocate for what we need in order to create a safer and healthier work environment.”

According to the RWDSU, the unionization vote at the store was conducted by an in-person secret ballot vote, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

“It’s a disappointment that humane wages and employment safety are subjects that Barnes & Noble has hesitated to offer from the beginning of employment," said bookseller Page Lyerly. "Any worker at Barnes & Noble, at any level or any position, deserves courtesy. This union ensures our financial security, employment safety, & justified respect that we should have been granted from the start.”

According to the RWDSU, workers at the flagship store faced continued safety issues amid the rebound from the pandemic, including workplace harassment, unfair scheduling practices, and favoritism by management. Union representatives said they are looking to address these issues in their first contract negotiations.