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Powell's Books contract negotiations community update

If you've been at any of Portland's world renouned Powell's Bookstore locations in the past few days, you may have seen employees wearing stickers along the lines of "1% won't pay my rent" and "no way". If you'd like to know what thats all about..read on.
Three years ago, Powell's Books employees voted to become ILWU Local 5, and fought for their contract tooth and nail (read more at  http://www.ilwulocal5.com). Now, the union and management are at negotiations again for contract #2. For the past two months, its been pretty mellow, but Thursday the 25th, things got ugly when management introduced its economic proposal "concept". For their first act, management proposed an essential wage freeze, with the hard barganed wage step increases of the last contract eliminated. This would mean that no matter how hard the employees at Powell's Books worked, they would not be rewarded at their anniversary time with a wage increase (formerly 3% increase at employee's anniversary). Instead, management would like to award an across the board 1% increase once every 8 months for the next 4 years. To put this in perspective, this would mean minimum wage in Oregon would rise faster than Powell's employee wages would (The mandated cost of living is 2.02%). For most employees, making somewhere around $8-$11/hr, this would mean a $.10 raise every 8 months instead of a $.30 raise twice a year (once at anniversary time, and once in November to adjust for cost of living). Instead of 18% (under the 1st contract), or 21% (proposed by the union for this contract) over THREE years, management would like to give a whopping 6% total raise over the next FOUR years. While employees are being paid less, they would pay more for health insurance & doctor visits, pay triple the present cost of prescription drugs, and have to pay a separate dental deductable. Meanwhile, Powell's has purchased a new warehouse in NW Portland, reduced its pool of employees from 450 to 405 causing an increased workload for everyone, raised the price of used books while buying them for less, and has continually increased sales as well as sales goals & projections for the past three years. Friday and Saturday, Powell's employees all over Portland said "No Way" to management's "concept", through sticker action and email.

To help Local 5 get a fair contract, let Michael Powell know what you think by emailing  michael.powell@powells.com (a simple "no way" from you would be awesome too!)

To donate love & support for the barganaing team and Powell's employees, email  local5-bteam@ilwulocal5.com (no spam, no junk, just love please)

dam 30.Sep.2003 00:55


thats really fucking sad, i hate buying things, and for the most part if i need books i just steal them from corporate chains... but when i buy a book (if the corporate chains or library doesnt have it) then i go to powells... that really sucks, i emailed Powell about it, hope i can make a difference.. i didnt mention anything about theiverizing in the email.. just how my respect has been lowered for powells... and could only be restored upon hearing that workers rights were being upheld...

thank you 30.Sep.2003 08:08


thank you! You rock.

Whiners 30.Sep.2003 08:32

Joshua D. Drake

Good lord.... get a different job. If you don't like what they are offering move on. Yes, I know the economy is tough but guess what it is tough on the Powell's corp as well.
They are being onslaughted by Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble not to mention their own employees. Powell's has given more to local charities that most companies and yet whiners are still unhappy.

The reality is, you don't deserve a raise unless you earn it. Unless your position changes (cashier to book buyer for example), you shouldn't get a raise.

Refreshing naivete 30.Sep.2003 08:54


>get a different job.

If your neighbors started running a meth lab, would you just move? Think Josh, think.

> The reality is, you don't deserve a raise unless you earn it.

Reality is kids without insurance, the rent vs. food decision, coming outside to discover your car has been totalled by a hit and run driver and losing your job because you can't afford transportation anymore. Reality is just how close to completely fucking destitute people in retail truly are and all you can come up with is this naive, puerile Social Darwinist horse shit? Pardon me for pissing on your parade Josh, but the first time something happens and your folks aren't there to bail you out it's a whole different ball game. You want a taste of reality? Skip dinner tonight. You want a full-course meal of reality? Skip dinner for a week so your landlord won't throw your ass out on the street.

It's a nasty world out there, Josh. A raise that matches the inevitable increase in the cost of living isn't merit-based. It's survival-based, and nothing more than that. Grow the fuck up.

Not exactly a fair analogy 30.Sep.2003 11:53


"If your neighbors started running a meth lab, would you just move? Think Josh, think."

More like you were looking at a new home, your neighbors came over and said, "Look - we run a meth lab next door, but we'd love to have you as neighbors," and you moved in all the same. It's also worth noting that unions are by their very definition social darwinists, which you seem to abhor. It just turns out that they're the fittest.

All the power to you, though. Unfortunately, I think it might take more than sticker action to sway the minds (and pocketboots) of management.

Wages need to rise with inflation/cost of living 30.Sep.2003 12:45


"Raises should be merit-based"

That might make sense (assuming you buy into the basic logic of capitalism which asserts that ijnherited wealth is aright and people have a right to purchase the labor of others while not doing any real work themselves) if we lived in a world with no inflation. However, the way things are, if wages don't increase regularly, people starve. Inflation is driving the cost of living up ever year. If wages freeze or raises are purely performance-based, how can this year's wages buy next year's food or pay next year's rent?

Think about this- if minimum wage had increased along with inflation since it was first nationally institued, it would be around $20+ an hour now. . .

Not quite 30.Sep.2003 13:06


I think you've overestimated the recent effects of inflation. The minimum wage has always been far below the poverty line. It was created in 1938, at which time it equated to around $6,500/year in today's dollars. It peaked in 1968, around $8.50/hour in today's dollars. Oregon is $6.90, so it's pretty close to the peak. (Though it should be higher).

If the minimum wage was indexed to per-hour worker productivity, which is an arguably fairer benchmark, it would be something like $13/hour today.

An entirely fair analogy 30.Sep.2003 13:17


1) Powells employees enjoy a fair working situation by virtue of a contract. The contract is over and the working situation threatens to become less fair.

2) Suzy Homeowner is pleased with and purchases a house. Criminals move in and open a meth lab, making Suzy's house less safe and pleasant.

I suppose I could've made it about the bank and not about the meth lab, but the analogy is entirely fair. The work won't change, only the conditions (the house hasn't changed, only its environs). Josh proposes running away from an unpleasant situation despite the fact that the situation is directly relevant to survival. Josh proposes that the worker should not exert his/her influence on a survival issue, but place him/herself at risk and go find another job where they pay a living wage and offer benefits. No sooner should a worker have to passively accept the destruction of his/her working conditions than the homeowner should have to accept the destruction of his/her neighborhood.

Oh...and before I forget...how, exactly, is a union the very definition of Social Darwinism?

Drive Powells under? 30.Sep.2003 13:50


So let get this straight. In the Bush economy where half my friends are unemployed due to shipping their jobs overseas, and I have not seen a raise in 3 years, the workers at Powells want more money? Has the profits at Powells increased by 3% a year or have they gone down as the store tries to survive in a crowded market? The reality is that until the economy gets better, and I doubt it will under Bush, very few companies are going to be able pay their workers what the workers deserve and complaining about it is not going to help. All that complaining to Michael Powell will do is either tick him off and he will harden his position or he will finally say enough and sell one of the biggest family owned book stores to some corporate chain, take his cash and retire. Does anyone really want that?

Lay-offs 30.Sep.2003 14:16


I believe inflation is 1% a year now aint it? If Powells has to pay higher wages expect more layoffs and higher prices.

A year ago I was homeless and jobless -- get a different job. 30.Sep.2003 14:51

etaN natecurryproudad@hotmail.com

Sure, it would be great if everyone could magicaly have enough money to survive. The reality however is that money(means to live) is the motivating factor in our World. No society in history has escaped this fact. The World needs motivation. Unless a better form can be found money is it. Raises should be merit based. Give it some thought. Adili believes finding a new job, or working hard for an advance in position is running away. Not so, it is chasing a dream. There is a difference. If a Meth lab moved in next door, I would either choose to co-inhabit peacefully, move, or aid the enforcement of law. Most likely I would learn to co-inhabit peacefully!

Powell's is a community icon. They seem to treat their employees, customers and all their neibors well. They do have to compete with Corporate titans like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Thank you Joshua.

Unions have their place in keeping employers fair and honest. However, as in all things, their needs to be a balance. I believe forcing a company to give raises (other than those based on performance), is just wrong. Those expenses get passed on to the consumer, and cost of living goes up. It's a vicious cycle.

Speaking as one who has been homeless, jobless, and had nothing. Speaking as one who's parents would not lend me a dollar if my life depended on it; I say to the workers at Powell's; work hard, apply for promotions, and if you don't like the company policies, go find another job. Better yet, start your own business!

One last thing, if I should like to work hard, build wealth and pass it on to my daughter, ensuring that she never has to suffer in the way I did, I feel I should have the right to do so, and she should have the right to the inheritance. You should really consider your paradigm

Thank you all for sharing your opinions. I respect your right to yours, and I considered carefully what all of you had to say before forming and voicing my own opinion.

PS I'm not the most formaly educated person writing here, but isn't 'social darwinists' an oxymoron? How do survival of the fittest and socialism go together?

4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd. #230 Portland, OR 97214-5246

Powell's makes a shitload of money!! 30.Sep.2003 14:57


What you may not understand is that Powell's is making money hand over fist. The fact is they have raised the prices of new books, lowered the percentage paid to the public for those same books, purchased new properties, raised its own rent, has a ratio of 1 manager for every bargaining unit employee (according to management), has lost many employees and instead of replacing them has expected the remaining employees to do more work for the same money.
After figuring inflation and slippage of the dollar, our raises of 6% a year actually amount to 3% a year over the last 3 years. We have accepted minor increases in health care costs already. We aren't complaining about the situation. We are damanding a fair contract. If Powell's wants to claim that they can't afford to pay us then they have to open the books to scrutiny and prove it. Don't count on this happening.
Not only that, they give us this "offer" on the eve of our contract's expiration. They are playing games with peoples lives. They're showing that they have no intention of bargaining in good faith. Something will have to be done to change their minds.
One thing to keep in mind is that everyone working in management at Powell's will get the exact same benefits package and wage increase schedule that non-management employees get. Granted these folks make a little more on salary but they'll be hard pressed to defend the "offer" when faced with the same reductions in wages/benefits.
Anyone who writes, "Go get another job" or "Quit whining"...you make me laugh so hard. Keep it up. You very funny. Weak...but funny.

Big Boys 30.Sep.2003 17:02


What are the big boys doing like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Borders?. Are all their employees in unions? If not, is it fair to be demanding strong union contracts on Powells?

re: whiners? 30.Sep.2003 18:27


Why is it that Powell's employees are "whiners" when they collectively demand greater monetary compensation for their labor, but Powell's bosses aren't whiners when they collectively insist that they're just too darn poor to give raises?

what ARE the big boys doing? 30.Sep.2003 18:38


Good question, what ARE the big boys (those models of retail perfection) doing? Union-busting! Is it fair that anyone would want more than the "big boys" might give them? Ask yourself.

Dumbmadillo 30.Sep.2003 18:54

Jimmy Crackcorn

Yeah...all those Amazon stores...heh heh...way to be informed, Mr. Madillo...

Unrealistic 30.Sep.2003 19:48


There is nothing realistic about writing in the same paragraph, "shipping their jobs overseas" and "until the economy gets better". It is utter nonsense.

The reality is that under Bush, Dean, Kucinich, Stalin, or St Francis of Assis, so long as corporations continue to export jobs without people complaining, so long as corporations pretend cheap over-seas labour forces them to reduce wages and increase profits without people complaining, the economy will continue to get worse.

The only way the economy will improve is by more and more people complaining, by more and more people refusing to buy from over-seas corporations, by more and more people refusing to submit to shitty treatment from corporations.

The reality is that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between obedient silence and corporations stealing everything we allow them.

employee / jimmy 30.Sep.2003 19:59


what ARE the big boys doing?
30.Sep.2003 18:38
Good question, what ARE the big boys (those models of retail perfection) doing? Union-busting! Is it fair that anyone would want more than the "big boys" might give them? Ask yourself.

Reply:If Powells is to survive in these corporate takeover times do you think they can afford to be hobbled by a union when the others arent? The big boys are licking their chops just waiting for ol the captain to give up the ship. THEN where will you be? Out on the street? Most likely.

30.Sep.2003 18:54
Jimmy Crackcorn
Yeah...all those Amazon stores...heh heh...way to be informed, Mr. Madillo...

Reply: Amazon might make bookstores obsolete soon the way theyre going. Hint-LOTS fewer employees to pay.

Social Darwinism 30.Sep.2003 20:00


Social Darwinism purports to be a theory about the working out of evolution (Darwinism) within human society.

It is actually the claim that the wealthy and powerful demonstrate, by their possession of wealth and power, their superior over the poor or different; and the further claim that government and church should not interfere with the allegedly proper progress of evolution. Some claim further that church and state should assist evolution and the rich to eliminate the unfit.

These theories were championed most notably by Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), although the rolls of their disciples are appallingly long and inclusive.

The most devoted proponents include fascist and liberarian political parties, chauvinists, religionists, racists, sexists, and those who have 'inherited' wealth.

The present US government appears to espouse Social Darwinism. However, there is evident also a strong streak of Christian millenarianism, a related fallacy.

Obviously, little people who band together to gang-up on big people, if they win, are more 'fit to survive'. However, Social Darwinism is NOT about fitness to survive. Social Darwinism is big people CLAIMING they are fittest, and demanding that little people be prevented from defending themselves.

Unions, the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, and the Sermon on the Mount, are categorical rejections of the claims made by Social Darwinists.

The linked article was translated and posted by Mark Batko about six months ago. I disagree with parts, but it gives you the main ideas :


Gut 30.Sep.2003 21:04


I just have a gut-feeling that unions are wrong. Im not in a union or never have been or never will be probably. I am a very independent thinking person and so naturally feel unions are wrong . I also saw Ken Kesey's movie "Sometimes a Great Notion" which helped to influence me a bit. What happens if youre in a union and you want to try to excell or you have an idea for improving business? FORGET IT ! The other union members will come down on you hard if you try to excell or stand out or even do what is expected of you sometimes.. THAT is not natural (anti-Darwinian) and it is very wrong. As a result of unions and their bullying of owners and conscientious employees, millions of jobs are going overseas. Nature bats last.

In case 30.Sep.2003 21:21


In case youre wondering I promise I have NOTHING to do with Powell's Company which my name might imply. I just like armadillos! I think theyre cool.

Armadillo 30.Sep.2003 21:24

Purple Punk

Let's all give a big round of applause to Amazon. It's got a great business model. It may make bookstores obsolete. It may be fair to say that Powell's is "hobbled" by a union (though that's debatable--the employees don't get all that much more money post-union and I'd imagine that the turnover rates, and thus training expenses and inefficiency costs associated with newbies, are much lower). However, what's your point, exactly?

Take things to their logical extreme. It's not a couple of dollars an hour difference that would kill Powell's. Amazon has the advantage of discounted rates, for health insurance and merchandise and more, because of extreme wholesale discount. Amazon has the advantage of more sales per employee because it's internet-based rather than store based. No matter how hard Powell's competes, it's going to feel the pressure (by your logic, though Powell's is making a LOT of money, and is helping Amazon put the squeeze on a number of smaller stores in town). A matter of a couple dollars an hour per employee isn't going to be what finally breaks the bank. Even if Powell's paid minimum wage, by your logic, it would still feel the squeeze because the biggest efficiency differences between Powells and Amazon are not based on salaries.

So, why should the excellent employees of Powells take, effectively, a paycut (when cost of living is factored in) if it's not even going to save the store? And is it even relevant? Fair is to be paid enough to make rent, have health insurance, eat, and maybe have a family or save for retirement. That's fair, and I'm surprised that you would criticize these workers instead of Amazon since if Amazon's paying poorly, that's the problem. I repeat, the problem IS NOT people wanting to be paid fairly.

It seems like you accept that the free market is always the fairest thing. But if you think that, I would urge you to consider many of the unregulated markets around the world where kids stitch shoes, and where people don't have health insurance, and so on. I would urge you to consider the brutal reality of pre-union America, and of industrial England. Free market isn't fair because when people are free to make up their own rules, their own rules often aren't fair.

Roadkill 30.Sep.2003 21:41


You have never been in a union; nevertheless, you are an expert on how they work. That is impressive.

You are a "very independent thinking person"; but you allow your attitudes to be controlled by unexamined, natural feelings. That is ... um ... amazing.

Not just natural feelings. A hollywood movie. Special!

Better alternative 30.Sep.2003 21:55


I think a better alternative than a union would be stock options for all employees, like I think Winco and many other companies do, so the employees have a vested interest in the company performance. Unions reward mediocrity and laziness, ownership abhorrs mediocrity and laziness.
"Sometimes a Great Notion"- "just another Hollywood movie????? Do you know who Ken Kesey was? That was one of my favorite movies. The brother's death scene was the most powerful and incredible movie scene of all time!

Armadillo, not really 30.Sep.2003 22:10

Purple Punk

As you can see by all the flattened armadillos on the road in Texas, they are not very good at dodging. Thus, you are not being a very good Armadillo when you dodge my questions. Perhaps Road Runner would be more apt. ;)

However, I'll pay you the respect of explaining why stock options are not a good idea.

A person deserves a living wage. If you pay a person less than a living wage and give that person stock options (which aren't worth anything when they're first granted--so the employee must wait however long to reap their benefits), then that person is completely and utterly screwed in a down economy (ie the last three years). That same problem applies to all the profit-sharing schemes that I can think of. But that's an aside. Back to the stock options. A person may not be able to wait for the stock to go up. Or, as has happened to many employees who got a job near the tail of the most recent economic expansion, their employers have continued to make big bucks but not quite as big as before so the stock price has been punished despite presumably good performance from the employees. In short, stock options are a nice bonus but they are no substitute for a fair salary to begin with.

But what this really boils down to is that you're blaming the workers instead of the employers. Yeah, I can think of instances where union workers are overpaid (where the union has essentially become parasitic), but let's look at things logically. The only reason unions sprang up in the first place is because employers were treating their employees horrifically. So, treat your employees right, and the union doesn't have a place. So, you "think you have a better idea"? It's not stock. It's having the big boys treat the little ones with respect.

Stock options 30.Sep.2003 22:46


I tried to do a search for an article posted here a couple months ago about some workers in a 3rd world country company getting the equivalent of stock options. It was very positive and evidently was working very well. Sure stocks go down sometimes but the owners get burned too when this happens. Bill Gates probably lost a 10 million dollars today. But the long term trend of stocks is usually up and so can also breed company loyalty and work for the long term which is also why I think Microsoft has done so well. Microsoft has 1000s of millionaire employees because of stock options. The main thing is that when youre part owner of the company you begin to care about how its doing and not just your immediate paycheck. The employees as stock option owners might have a lot more leverage of employee wages as well!

Better for whom? 30.Sep.2003 23:59


"stock options"


In any case, nobody can eat stock options. That's why employees hold out for cash. That, and the fact that stock options are generally worthless below the executive suites. Most new businesses fold in the first year.

Yes, I know about Kesey. I have read all three novels, seen both movies, read Wolfe's 'Electric Koolaid', and enjoy the Grateful Dead.

Nicholson's usual over-the-top performance gutted much of the meaning from 'Cuckoo's Nest', in my opinion. It certainly served to shield the psychiatric 'care' industry from much-needed public scrutiny. Although, the book unaided would have done that, less effectively.

Your being impressed by the ridiculous death scene in 'Great Notion' does not make it a great movie.

Even so, despite your claims, we can't blame that movie for your disinformation about unions.

BTW 01.Oct.2003 00:04


Please do not misquote me. I wrote '' A hollywood movie. ''

I did not write '' just another Hollywood movie ''

Thank you.

author's reply to this stuff 01.Oct.2003 00:23



Many of you (powells employee barred), are simply misinformed. Powell's IS making money hand over fist. While the country is in an economic downturn, sales at powells have done nothing but gone UP since 2001. Sales have gone up because employees have busted their asses to take pride in their work, in their sections, in their customers (thats ya'll), and their sales. And, what does Amazon do? It partners with Powell's books to make its profits. When you go on amazon.com, and you see a used book...where do ya think its coming from when it arrives on your doorstep? Additionally, they treat their employees extremely poorly, just ask one, and they pay the people who run their company crap wages. At least once a week I get a call from a Barnes & Noble employee, or a Borders employee looking to send their customers over to our stores because they simply can not get the book their customer wants. Powell's employees want not MORE money, but the same amount of money we were promised with the 1st contract, 3 years ago. The proposal doesn't ask for dramatic wage hikes. The only thing not status qup across the board is the cost of living increase which would go from 3% to 4%, to adjust for...hey, COST OF LIVING, which as we all know, has gone up and will continue to go up. Powell's employees want to keep their pay because their pay goes back into the community. Thats the restaurant you work in, the co-op you co-own, the tips you make at your coffee job, and the crap you sell at saturday market. They want "more" money, because YOU want more money. And, if you feel "in your gut" that unions are wrong...read a book.

Unions fees 01.Oct.2003 00:29


Well I've met employees that hate the union fees every month. I sure as hell wouldnt let those union bosses hold me back in trying my best and trying to advance within the company. Anyway, I wish I could find that post from here a couple months ago.
RIDICULOUS SCENE?!! This might be indicative of your homophobia! "Sometimes a Great Notion" was a raw and primal masterpiece. One of the most memorable lines from it was when the wife asked Paul Newman what was the meaning of life. There might be more of Ken Kesey in that movie/book than any other even though I highly doubt he supported logging outright.

ps-stock options 01.Oct.2003 00:44


BTW, Powells employees USED TO have profit sharing. If powell's was traded on the market maybe it would have stock sharing stuff. However, even the profit sharing was eventually eeked out by essentially fudged numbers. In any case, despite lack of stock options, despite lack of profit sharing, there is a general sense employee wide of "co-ownership" or pride, or whatever you want to call it, which is why we want to keep our jobs and keep em GOOD jobs.

re:fudged numbers: profit sharing was based on projected sales. ie, if the company made over 100 dollars this year, all employees would get X amount of dollars as a bonus. This was eliminated by increasing the projected sales figure to ridiculously high amounts unattainable short of a miracle. Therefore, profit sharing is eliminated. This is only one of the reasons employees CHOSE to unionize, CHOOSE to pay dues, and CHOOSE to keep working where they love what they do, and (for the most part) whom they do it with.

Just get another job? 01.Oct.2003 01:23

George Bender

I can't believe all the total innocents on this website who think that if one job doesn't meet your needs you should just go get another. Or that you shouldn't have taken it in the first place. What planet do they live on? They seem to be completely ignorant of working-class reality. Hey folks, there aren't enough jobs, and most jobs don't pay enough to live on and support a family. A union is your only real defense against the rich assholes that are trying to drive us down into the ground so they can make even more money.

The claims about Powell's not being able to compete have already been refuted by their employees. Last I heard Amazon wasn't doing all that great -- did they ever manage to turn a profit? People want to handle their books before they buy them. We like to browse. Also, Powell's does sell on the Internet.

If you're going to claim that workers shouldn't unionize and fight for more money because that would hinder their employers' ability to compete, then you're saying we should have an economic race to the bottom. No, we should have an allout fight to get all of us working-class people a living wage. Anyone who doesn't think we should make a living wage is the enemy.

Get Another Job...WTF. 01.Oct.2003 02:08


I moved to Portland just to accept a position at Powell's. With over 17 years of Bookselling experience, Powell's was always the Mecca for me. When the Union contract was established, the best bookstore became the GREATEST bookstore in the world to work for. I can't think of a better commodity (a book) to sell my labor for a wage. But I demand a fair wage. Is that too much to ask for?

Armadillo 01.Oct.2003 05:39


It's cute how they keep running you over, but you're able to pop up and keep going. You're enthusiasm is charming. I'm sure you'll realize what the grumps are talking about eventually. Until then keep reading, living, and learning.

Josh Josh Josh...et al 01.Oct.2003 06:01


For a quick primer on collective action, may I suggest Click Clack Moo . It's available in the kids section at Powell's...ask any of the professional booksellers.

Arma' 01.Oct.2003 07:11

Purple Punk

That article from 3 months ago where stock options were working so well--I haven't seen it but any time you can dig it up I'll be glad to explain why it might be working and why it might not be as it seems to you.

Anyhow. Microsoft. Please. The fact that you've just brought that up shows that you aren't seeing things as they are. Anti-union types love the example of Microsoft. Here's why it's not relevant.
1. If Bill Gates loses millions in a day, no big deal. He can still eat and live in a mansion and so on. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find any exec who "lost his ass" and is having a hard time eating today. Employees who don't make a living wage, however, are not so lucky.
2. At Microsoft, the employees have a skillset which commands better than a living wage. If Bill Gates stopped paying them enough, they'd get a well-paying job elsewhere. Where unions come in handy is where the workers would be getting near minimum wage otherwise--where the free market would screw them over--where workers aren't payed fairly because the boss can find a replacement very quickly and for a low amount of money.
3. The Microsoft example of many millionaires has stock options as something that went on top of a good salary and the employees lucked out. Even without stock, the employees would have done ok. But when you talk about paying minimum wage and then giving stock options, you're talking about people going hungry HOPING that the stock will go up (which, by the way, would have resulted in hard up Microsoft employees during this last lengthy downturn but didn't because they get paid ok).
4. In a 3rd world country where there aren't jobs available and where the economy is near the bottom, a stock option job with a dirt salary may be acceptable to workers because it's no worse than the job they couldn't get otherwise, and possibly better.

I could go on, but you should get the picture by now.

RE : Joshua D. Drake 01.Oct.2003 11:06


That's great. Nice support there, Josh. You worked for Powells at one point, I believe. But now that you've 'moved on' everyone that is fighting for fair labor parctices must be a whiner, is that it? You're corporate sympathy holds no water here. Powells is making money. Profits are up. Stores are understaffed. 1.2 million dollars is being spent to put powells deeper into the pockets of closed source/proprietary software companies. New wharehouses are being built. Managers are being paid more. Workload has increased dramatically. The gap between management and employees is widening. Under this new proposal employees could take a loss. And you say it's whining to fight for what we think is fair? Come on. You've been listening to way too many corporate seminars. I know your deal better than you think you know ours.
This 'Go get a different job if you don't like it' is tired. Just because things are worse other places does NOT make it okay to fuck your people. What better place to make a change that right here, at home.

Some of your books are still on powells shelves, BTW. Just in case you forgot.

I work at a crappy job 01.Oct.2003 12:24


But I want to sell my labor and work at powell's, but I don't want to join the union.

Can I do that?
If yes, is that fair?
If no, is that fair?

Bill, Thanks for the education on Social Darwinism 01.Oct.2003 13:18

etaN natecurryproudad@hotmail.com

Bill, thanks for the info on Social Darwinism. A most interesting term.

To the rest of everyone,

I have always been, and continue to be, incredibly impressed by the employees of Powell's, who make up the company. It sounds as if Powell's may not be completely conscious of the fact that it is their employees, along with their customers(and ultimately an employee is a customer), who make Powell's, and any business, what it is.

The bottom line, I believe, is that to seperate the employees from the company is folly. For the employees and the company to be at odds with each other; will eventually cause the company(and thus the employees) to fall. This, on a global scale, will lead to more inflation, and economic difficulties. I would urge you and your associates to remember that; just as Powell's could not exist without the employees, the Union and all it's members would never exist without Powell's. Let us not forget that we are all part of the whole, individually.

One last thing: Would someone please invite Michael Powell to drop his two cents here? Does anyone have his email address? What does he have to say about all of this?

4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd. #230, Portland, OR 97214-5246

Love not Fear 01.Oct.2003 13:31

etaN natecurryproudad@hotmail.com

Perhaps those of you who are beating each other up on this site, should consider the possibility that proactive positivity based in Love is better than hateful bantering based in fear.

I don't know about you people, but negativity is one of the main reason I don't support mainstream media.

No fingers pointing, just a suggestion.

4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd. #230, Portland, OR 97214-5246

Are you sure they make more money? 01.Oct.2003 13:56

Teddy Ruxpin

Many posts claim Powell's is making money hand-over-fist, and cite such data as new warehouses, rising prices and rising sales to prove it. They may be right, but nobody has cited the one figure that actually means Powell's makes money: profits.

Powells sales might be rising, but that does not mean they are making more money, just selling more books. If those books used to sell at a (for the sake of arguement) 10% profit, and are now selling twice as fast but at a 5% profit, there is no actual profit increase, and thus no cash for raises. Revenue has to keep pace with or increase faster than expenses, but if Powell's expenses are growing faster than their revenues, they could be actually LOSING money, no matter how much their sales increase. Where are the figures of Powell's expenses and revenues?

Powell's may damn well be raking in the profits, their margins may very well be increasing across the board and they may damn well be just screwing the employees. But would somebody please actually find out?

If nothing else it will give you a better barganing chip at the negotiations if you can say "Powell's profit margin is up ___ percent, thus our wages can go up at LEAST that much without breaking the bank."

If it turns out that Powell's is getting hit by the economy, making idiot business decisions or otherwise not increasing profits each month, then frankly you guys are not going to get a raise without getting some of your co-workers fired to pay for it, and that is not solidarity in any sense.

And yes, I know my typing stinks.

Missing data truly the question 01.Oct.2003 17:47


Teddy makes a solid addition to the debate, yet I feel that the answer to his question may be harder to find than one may assume. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears as though Powell's, by being a private corporation, has no incentive or legally-binding duty to report numbers to anyone, their own union included. With this in mind, I'm assuming that their silence on such a matter would indicate a positive profit margin...they have nothing to lose by being silent about it. If the corporation were truly in the "red," it would make sense for them to make the numbers visible for all to see; effectively disabling any attempts to garner higher wages via a sound excuse. ie. You can't demand from someone what they don't have. My gut instinct says that Michael Powell's cronies fit the former situation.
Best of luck to all of the workers at Powell's...it's a fabulous store, the employees are generally miles beyond their "counterparts" at retail chains, and they have every right to go after living wages in this economy, despite what the naysayers go on about.

In Solidarity!

You are welcome, etaN 02.Oct.2003 00:50


I decided a couple of months ago to go back to school.
I enjoy researching that kind of thing.

Damn! I feel powerful when I know what I'm talking about!

You are right about ... well, I would not go so far as "love" ... certainly, respect. The owners don't spend a lot of time slagging each other. They start by agreeing what is real. Then, they tussle only over dividing the spoils.

They teach us to waste our time hollering about facts which anybody could see for himself, if his eye-lids weren't squeezed shut by his braying mouth.

Hey, Dilly, Dilly! 02.Oct.2003 03:41


Some appropriate words from another post :

The undercover was saying the same thing to me that this na´ve liberal had said to my comrade. The cop was doing it for pay. His superiors and their superiors above them have a vested interest in keeping this country's wealth in the hands of the top one percent that control the multi-national corporations that control our government.

The na´ve liberal, on the other hand, did and said exactly the same thing as the cop, but he wasn't even getting paid to do it. Every time my comrade and I have ever been to a picket or rally, we have heard the same thing from literally tens upon tens of other liberals. And there are millions of them out there. Its like millions of liberal brains must understand life truly through the eyes of a beaten woman who blames herself when her husband beats her. These liberals must sit on their couches every night watching Lifetime movies and look over at each other and say, "Yeah, she's right - It is her fault. She really shouldn't have talked back to him like that."

The crucial point here: you liberals in the streets, so well-trained, are repeating exactly what the undercover cops/COINTELPRO fatasses want you to think. So for all of you liberals and "progressives" out there who think without really thinking, here is the moral of the story:

You are playing the game exactly as those in power want you to play the game. It is a game that you can never win. You are playing their game - by their rules. And those in power are extremely greedy. As long as you continue in your unthinking ways, you are the moral equivalent of an informer selling out your own people.

But - if you really want a better world, a world different from ours, a world of equality, freedom, and peace - there is another way: DON'T PLAY THE GAME. DON'T PLAY BY THEIR RULES.

Undercover cops and their unwitting liberal co-conspirators
author: eric blair [likely an alias] 30.Sep.2003 22:18

update/comments on numbers quiery 02.Oct.2003 10:26


Hi again

First of all, just so ya know, this is where were at with negotiations: We barganed until midnight last night, until our current contract expired. Employees are now working without a contract. More than ever they need support and solidarity (is that redundant?) from each other AND the community. All of you keeping up with this, and all your friends, and all the degrees of separation there are the community. (psst: tell people). Management came back in the room around 11:30 last night to take a look at our counter proposal, which was tweaked but still a fair, and moderate proposal that we know they can afford. Barganing will begin today at 2pm, and we'll keep on until we get a fair contract. Because we are not working under one currently, you may see some fun actions taking place in and outside the store. No, I can't tell you what they are, but keep your eyes peeled for updates here and rumors out on the streets.

How do we know they can afford it?: Teddy has some valid concerns. Unfortunately, we do not have copies of their books. They are NOT legally required to hand them over, or even let us take a peek. Bibliophobe is absolutely right here. If they didn't have the money for it, they WOULD show us their books and whimper and cry, and then we would be willing to see what is fair to them AND us. But thats not the case, they haven't even ONCE said that they don't have the money for it. We know they do because we run the store. We see the money come in at the registers, we see it in our sales figures, and we see it in the bragging they do through email saying "we've had a record breaking summer/christmas/fall/school year/harry potterevent." We also see it in the increased amount of work we do. Profit margins don't change a lot in the bookselling business unless publishers want to let themselves go broke. We get about a 30% profit on new books, a 50% profit on non book stuff items, and under their new buying rules, I believe something like a 70% profit if not more on used books. There are various other ways books make their way into the store, but there are our 3 main catergories. Let me site some examples just incase my percentages are screwy. If a book costs 20, we paid 14, if a board game costs 20, we paid 10. If a used books costs 10, we paid somewhere around 3 depending on condition etc. All the used mass market paperbacks in the store costing 3.95 and 4.95 etc, we pay $.25 for. Thats some margins. If I'm wrong about these, I'll find out and post some more on here, but you all seem to be pretty vigilant and I wanted to keep you updated.

And, Click, Clack, MOO is WONDERFUL. That comment made me laugh like nothing but the burly longshoremen helping up with our negotiations have. Thank you.

on the inside 02.Oct.2003 19:34

internet worker

I remember a meeting about a year ago when we were all beaming smiles about how great our team was and how much we contributed to the whole powells thing. We acknowledged that we couldn't compete with amazon on the price point, but people loved us because the employees were so good at their jobs, so nice,smart and honestly friendly. Powells is the institution it is because the workers are smart and happy. Smart and happy people don't work (generally) for such beauracratic companies as amazon. Powells has soul. The employees love their store and don't want to see it turned into a soulless monster simply content to eat money. Micheal Powell inherited his fathers store but unfortunately not the passion that made it: integrity.
The workers want a FAIR contract. Powells and especially the internet department ARE making heaps of money. If the management wants to squeeze the lifeblood (quality workers) out of the picture then we must fight.

budget expeditures & bargaining in bad faith 02.Oct.2003 19:51


Someone who works at Powell's (in computer support) mentioned this:


What is incredibly shocking and disappointing to me is it appears that Powell's capital budget expenditures for a cavernous new warehouse,
new shipping equipment, new phone room equipment, a new HR/Payroll/Timekeeping system, AND a new bookstore inventory system
are to be "paid" for with a budget reduction in employee wages and health care.


Where a corporation puts there money tells you what they value. In this instance it's obviously not its employees.

If your are a Powell's customer, please contact upper management to show support for its workers.

And if you have a business relationship with Powell's, consider this example...


From: David Sweet
To:  michael.powell@powells.com
CC:  web_weaver922@hotmail.com
Subject: union contract
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 10:54:17 -0700

Dear Michael Powell,

 http://www/mbeaw.org , the much-visited bibliographical website for the
world-wide peace & justice movement of Monterey Bay Educators
Against War, encourages visitors to buy all their books through
independent booksellers, & provides a list of such booksellers
around the country. So far we have refrained from including Powell's,
despite its admirable reputation as a well-stocked store, because of
your participation alongside Amazon in the e-trade that threatens to
put the rest of our nation's independent booksellers out of business.

The attitude evident in your current contract negotiations toward the
role played by bookstore workers in the building & success of your
business appears to confirm that decision.

If Powell's bargains in good faith with its unionized employees, &
signs a decent contract with them that takes account of the rising cost
of living & in particular of medical & dental care, MBEAW is
prepared to reconsider & perhaps contribute in its own small way to
promoting your business.

Best wishes,
David Sweet, editor


author-emp 03.Oct.2003 00:33

today's goings on (10-2-03)


Briefly (i need some sleep)

Management said they would bargain with us at 2, they postponed until 3. It is rumored that their lawyer was busy gesticulating and wasting time. They came down at 3, cleared up random, but important, language issues, etc, and handed us the same economic proposal they have all along. Healthcare costs rising astronomically, wages decreasing. We said we'd take a look. The ILWU's lawyer flew up from San Francisco today to help us out, gave us all a peptalk (in caucaus). Management came back in the room, our lawyer handed their lawyer his card, their lawyer's face dropped, and we said we'd meet again next friday the 10th. Thats all I know. Please, continue to email Michael Powell, fill out customer comment cards in the store, talk to employees, and show your support.