On December 22, unionized employees at the Barnes & Noble flagship store in Manhattan's Union Square staged a walkout over concerns about management's alleged refusal to bargain in good faith with their recently formed union. The employees, represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), walked off the job just before 3pm and protested outside the storefront for two hours.

In June 2023, workers at the B&N Union Square location voted 97% in favor of joining the RWDSU, which now represents more than 100 workers at the store in contract negotiations. According to RWDSU, workers began negotiating their first union contract in the fall and have met a handful of times with B&N management, including CEO James Daunt in December.

The union cites "the company's failure to return on economic portions of the contract amid their highest sales season" as the reason for the December 22 work stoppage.

The RWDSU also represents booksellers at New York City's McNally Jackson, Greenlight Bookstore, and Book Culture, and the union says that these independent bookstores all pay higher wages than B&N.

In their inaugural union contract, workers at the store are also seeking to address "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 by management."

"[Management's] proposals get worse ever time we meet, they neglected to even begin to address economic issues, and their demands include completely unreasonable tasks," senior B&N bookseller Jessica Sepple told Work-Bites from the picket line.

“The union encouraged a walkout by a small number of employees claiming the company is negotiating in bad faith,” said a Barnes & Noble spokesperson in a statement, reported in Work-Bites. “This is not true. In fact, it is the pot calling the kettle black. The union presented significant economic demands on Nov. 29, and only one bargaining meeting has been held subsequently. It is a deeply regrettable situation and we look forward to continuing our good-faith discussions with the union in the new year.”

There are currently five unionized B&N locations across the country—in Manhattan, and Brooklyn, N.Y.,; Hadley, Mass.; San Jose, Calif.; and Bloomington, Ill.—as well as one unionized B&N College Booksellers, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.