Barnes & Noble workers at the retail giant's main Brooklyn location have voted to unionize after the company's New York Flagship Store unionized earlier this month. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced June 29 that it will represent more than 30 booksellers, baristas, cashiers, and non-supervisory employees at the Barnes & Noble Park Slope location after 88% voted in favor to join the union.
“Workers are sending a clear message to Barnes & Noble, organizing a union is the only way to win a voice at work that can create real change – and they’re winning by historic margins," said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum in a statement. "Bookstore workers across the industry, from independent sellers to corporate behemoths like Barnes & Noble face safety concerns, lack of training, and substandard wages. Only with a union, will these issues and more be heard.
According to RWDSU, workers at the Brooklyn store faced safety and workplace quality issues, such as "workplace harassment, substandard pay for the industry below that of independent booksellers, unstable scheduling practices, a lack of structure when it comes to job duties and tasks at work, and favoritism." The RWDSU said the workers are aiming to address these issues when their first contract negotiations commence this year.
"It is time for the industry to open a new chapter on how it treats its workers, and Barnes & Noble workers are writing the book,” added Appelbaum.
Bookseller Sydul Akhanji said he is "happy and relieved" with the outcome. "Excited to see how things go moving forward. I hope B&N is listening to us and will work with us as we begin negotiations," he said. "And I hope other retail workers who are interested in unionization find this moment to be inspiring and get active."
The unionization vote was conducted in-person at the store on June 29 and was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Barnes & Noble Park Slope is the third store to unionize, following votes at Barnes & Noble in Hadley, Mass., and the New York City Union Square Flagship store. The RWDSU also represents independent booksellers in the New York area at McNally Jackson, Goods for the Study, Greenlight Bookstore and Book Culture.
“We’re really excited about the results and moving forward with the process," said Haruka Iwasaki, a senior bookseller at Barnes & Noble Park Slope. "I feel a sense of unity within the store. I’m happy that we’re coming together to ensure our voices are being heard.”