Barnes & Noble associates at the retailer’s flagship store at Union Square in New York City have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking representation with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This is the third union filing in the past month at the company’s stores, with the other two being in Hadley, Mass. and at Rutgers University, which is operated by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, a separate company.
The petition filing for the Union Square location followed a delegation of associates sharing with store management that a majority of workers had signed RWDSU authorization cards, but Barnes & Noble didn’t voluntarily recognize the union. Workers at the store have cited issues including 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 and favoritism by management.
“Our store also continues to be short-staffed with many of us needing cross-training in a multitude of work areas,” said Desiree Nelson, Lead Bookseller at the Union Square Flagship Barnes & Noble in a statement. “That kind of proper training isn’t provided and we’re not compensated in a way that fairly reflects the work we do. We’re stretched thin, and with a union we’d win the pay, needed benefits and long-overdue training and safety resources we need to attract more co-workers and adequately staff the store so our customers have a safer and better experience shopping with us.”
Should the campaign prove successful, the RWDSU will represent more than 100 current NLRB-eligible workers at the flagship store in New York and an additional nearly 70 at Barnes & Noble Education at Rutgers. The workers in the proposed bargaining units include Booksellers, Baristas, Cashiers and all non-supervisory employees at each of the stores. The filings would follow a streak of union victories at independent bookstores in the New York area, including McNally Jackson, Goods for the Study, Greenlight Bookstore and Book Culture.
“Starting a union at Barnes & Noble is about creating an organized environment that cares deeply for the workers within the franchise,” said Lamia Abdallah, Bookseller at Rutgers University Barnes & Noble Education Store in a statement. “It is about creating equal opportunities, equal rights and justice within the industry to protect current and future workers that dream of one day working here. It is about ensuring that all that come and take part in making Barnes & Noble what it is and have the human rights they deserve like equal pay, healthcare rights and job security. Forming a union at Barnes & Noble only strengthens us and leads us closer to a better society.”
As of press time, Barnes & Noble hadn’t responded to Retail TouchPoints’ request for comment.