Hundreds of employees at the locations of Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., staged a one-day strike on Labor Day to protest stalled negotiations between ILWU Local 5, the union which has represented Powell's staff since 2000, and management. The union's contract ran out on June 7, and employees and management are at an impasse after negotiations have stalled. Last week, the union filed claim of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board against the bookstore, claiming management is not engaging in good faith and is stalling.
At the heart of the issues is the wage structure, with employees arguing that wages have not kept pace with inflation. As reported by the Oregonian, union reps have stated that the majority of employees start at $16.25 an hour, which is not close to the livable wage, which is now $21.85 for the area. Powell's says it has offered to raise the starting wage for top employees to over $22 and offer as much as $24.25, after increases.
The union characterized Powell's “last, best, final offer,” offered on August 11, as a lowball proposal. It said that booksellers start at $15.45 an hour, the area’s minimum wage, while 85% make below livable wage, which is $21.85.
Powell's management claims that it has made several concessions on health care and related issues. It wrote on Facebook: "We deeply value our employees and respect their right to engage in protected union activity, which includes a strike. We understand it can be part of the bargaining process, and we will honor and respect it."