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economic justice | labor

Are Powell's workers on strike?

I saw a group of workers next to Powell's this morning- I asked whether they were on strike yet they said the strike has begun. "As of when?" I asked. "As of now." one of the workers replied.
They were holding signs and seemed quite determined.
Yes--One Day ULP Strike at Powell's--Go Support Them! 12.Nov.2003 10:34

DJ Shadow

Last night, Powell's workers voted to do a one day ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) strike. They are asking folks to come down to the Burnside store anytime between 11 and 4 to show your support.

sure 12.Nov.2003 11:47

right on

I'll rush down to buy some books. Fire the lazy cretins, there are honest people who want to work.

"right on" is a weak minded asshole bootlicker 12.Nov.2003 12:47

alex

Personally, I don't find anything lazy about attempting to make one's workplace work better. The Powell's union has done nothing more than that. While the company has raked in record profits, it has cut staff, attempted to strip workers of their ability to manage their own sections, harrassed active unionists and is now cutting healthcare. Showing up to one's workplace for a public demonstration of worker solidarity without getting paid is not what I'd call lazy. I'm sure the workers would be happier spending the day with their families in the park. Unfortunately, this work must be done by someone. Today is ILWU local 5's turn. Working class reactionaries, such as "right on", might want to score points with their bosses by playing the role of obedient slave, but his/her coworkers see through the act. Workers must organize together or lose all dignity.

powells 12.Nov.2003 13:14

powells customer

Oh come on. I love these people who work in bookstores acting like they are tenured faculty at a major university. Strip away the "coolness" of working in a literate environment, it's basically no different than stocking shelves at a grocery store. If you are that interested in making money and having good benefits, then get a job that takes some education.

because there are unlimited jobs 12.Nov.2003 13:19

boonplod

right... just go get a job, becuase anyone that wants to make more money can just go to school and get a "job that takes some education". o wait, no they cant. Just remember that there arent unlimited jobs in this world, and even those people stocking grocery aisle shelves deserve a living wage...

so maybe, instead of flooding the market with "over qualified" people, they should jsut fight for the wages they deserve, go get a (class) conscience...

no really 12.Nov.2003 13:37

I mean it

Too many of the Powell's employees I encounter seem to have the mentality of the "asshole bootlicker" fellow. That phrase itself pretty much sums up why I don't have an especial enthusiasm for the Powell's employees in general.


Many are good people w/professional attitudes and conduct. They will eventually be sought after for their character if Powell's fails to appreicate them. The "asshole bootlicker" types will eventually lodge themselves in deep mope land where that will always perceive those with initiative and maturity with resentment.


I'm a life long booklover from a pretty low station in life myself. I am predisposed to like bookstores and the people who work in them. But many Powell's employees have behaved badly to me over the years for it not to be remarked. It is a notable feature of Powell's that is seldom mentioned.

I couldn't really understand that last post 12.Nov.2003 14:35

alex

I couldn't understand if "asshole bootlicker" refered to me or "right on". I don't work at Powell's and seldom go there. I prefer the library. That said, cowardly, reactionary bottom feeders should be called out. Their fear and desire to kiss boss butt is pathetic. If workers don't look out for themselves, no one else will. If some folks decide to cross a picket line or scab they should be chastized as the parasites they are.

Happy shopping.

Sick to death of the whining 12.Nov.2003 15:23

please-just-quit

Let me start by saying that I have been a union/labor supporter for almost forty years. But the Powell's complainers are starting to give people with real labor issues a bad name. Have you folks never worked a real job a day in your lives?

Powell's Books has been a good neighbor and upstanding member or the Portland community for decades. Anyone who knows anything about this town knows it is one of the best places to work, period. (Just ask the literally *hundreds* of people I saw lining up for a chance to interview at your job fair this year. I'd imagine those folks would love the opportunity to be "mistreated" by Powell's.)

Oh, I know, I know. SOMEONE has to pay for all that education under your belt. And besides, some days you might even glance up from the book you are reading to greet a customer. But even someone who works as hard as you do would be hard-pressed to find another bookstore or retail establishment that will pay you a fraction of what you make at Powell's, even if you are entry-level.

Please don't bother spewing that "Powell's is making wads of money" nonsense. As long as it is a privately-owned company, you will never know exactly what the figures are. (And here's something to keep in mind -- any first-year business course will teach you that register sales do not equal profit. Just how did the company pay for all the raises you received in your last contract? Think the electricity bill might have gone up in the past twelve months? Do you think rising healthcare costs don't affect a company?) It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the "facts" and "statistics" you post here are one-sided, union-fueled rhetoric.

I am sure you will find plenty of support here from people who will join any Cause they find on Indymedia, or who think that every boss or company is inherently evil. (Then why take a job at all? Go start your own company, so these same people can throw tantrums about you and accuse you of unfair labor practices.) As for me, I appreciate the lesson you have given me -- that all labor actions are not alike.

Ouch 12.Nov.2003 15:44

Ouch

Ouch.

Sick to death of the imposters 12.Nov.2003 16:05

please-just-quit

"union-fueled rhetoric"

Nice choice of words for someone who has "been a union/labor supporter for almost forty years."

Are you folks always so completely transparent?

poseurs offend the senses 12.Nov.2003 16:10

worker

"real labor issues"

Since when did loss of health care not count as a "real labor issue." The disinformationalist troll(s) are really camping on this thread and the other recent powell's articles. Their drivel goes something like this:

"I like bookstores and support unions but blah blah blah lazy unprofessionaly dirty smelly hippie commie pinkos..."

Be on the lookout; it seems like we'll be seeing a lot of this in the near future.

In solidarity with workers everywhere...

proving his point 12.Nov.2003 16:43

strike a pose

man, if you were actually about to "lose your healthcare," that would be a real labor issue. there's no way you're gonna make me believe that powell's is trying to stop having healthcare benefits.

ain't no one said nothing about no hippies on this thread but you, son.

don't you mean 12.Nov.2003 17:26

worker

Don't you mean "proving my point." You don't really expect us to believe that you're new to this thread do you? Since you're camped here on this thread to shout down people in support of the strike I really couldn't care less what you believe, or what you profess to believe. I think you have no interest in what the issues involved are and will avoid any rational discussion about them.

And since you didn't appreciate my satire allow me to rewrite it with only quotes from detractors:

"I'm a life long booklover from a pretty low station in life myself and I'm predisposed to like bookstores and the people who work in them and I have been a union/labor supporter for almost forty years but blah blah blah lazy cretins, whining complainers, you know "asshole bootlicker" types who never worked a real job a day in your lives and give people with real labor issues a bad name and who have behaved badly to me over the years and need to get a job that takes some education because there are honest people who want to work."

I thought I was going to pull stuff from the other articles but I think that's more than enough to prove my point. I still like the original because it was much more succinct.

Wow! 12.Nov.2003 17:29

Real worker

Walking the strike beat outside of the store today is the most "work" I've ever seen a Powell's employee participate in. It's nice to know they're actually capable of movement. I would have thought they were hired guns if I hadn't seen the familiar shitty treatment of customers. Today was only different because it happened outside the store. You all should be glad Powell's is stuck with you. No one else would dream of hiring you.

closed shop? 12.Nov.2003 17:29

Curious

Can I walk into Powell's and get a job without joining the union?

IMC anonymity? 12.Nov.2003 17:59

alex

I gave up posting under assumed names a long time ago. I wonder how difficult it would be for geeks at IMC to track postings back to Powell's or the homes of Powell's managers. If some of the trolls happen to be in management it would certainly be quite damaging, potentially in court. Something to think about, huh?

If any of the trolls do in fact work with a union, I feel sorry for their brothers and sisters.

Go Local 5 12.Nov.2003 19:48

Ex-Powells

Christ, people seem to think that proper labor relations derive from employer magnanimity (what a joke - tell that to unemployed steelworkers in Ohio) and employee meekness and obseqiousness. Labor rights and a strong position for labor comes only through struggle and standing up for your rights. Anything else is, well, slavery. You humbly ask the master for a few crumbs from his table - and in exchange you are a good little worker who doesn't ask questions about important issues such as job restructuring, new technologies, random health care cost increases, random wage freezes, manager incompetence and malevolence, poor working conditions, management spying, management lying, unfair labor practices, arbitrary enforcement of rules, favoritism and all those other experiences intrinsic to working at Powell's and at most places. While unions are not perfect - and one of the reasons the Powells workers went with the ILWU is because it is not like other unions, and it afforded more democratic control to its members - unions are often the only line of defense, and contracts the only law, which will protect workers from the arbitrariness of management.

Powell's has a reputation for being a good place to work that does not square with its reality. While working at Powell's is certainly preferable to working at McDonalds, it is not some dream job. Much of its desirability is mere illusion which accords its some value as similarly "cool" jobs like record stores, other bookstores etc. Powell's employees are subject to any number of the above-listed annoyances that interfere both with the smooth operation of the store, the well-being of the employees and the profitability of the store. Whenever you are dealing with a concrete industry like the book selling industry, the only way to generate surplus profits is to squeeze labor. Thus the spying, lying and arbitrary enforcement of rules. Working at Powell's is hard work - try it some time - and much of what it makes it so hard is the heavy-handedness of management, a heavy-handedness that can only be figured as some official management policy/strategy, due its ubiquity and consistency. Powell's would be a great job - without the management apparatus, which is frightfully incompetent and authoritarian.

If you oppose people self-organizing to fight for their rights, maybe you also oppose other organizations that self-organize to defend their rights or advance their interests, from clubs to political parties to neighborhood associations to the original founders of this country. Self-organization for communal benefits is as old as womankind itself - to oppose it is to ascribe to some bizarre atomized solipsism. Or rather, as you only oppose union rights, you reveal yrself for what you probably truly are: a free-market fundamentalist or perhaps, maybe, a fascist.

a view from inside the "city" 12.Nov.2003 20:33

Harry

Three things. Okay, four; I am a Powells worker. Today's Unfair Labor Practice strike was over violations in labor law that Powell's management has made by harrassing Union leaders and organizers. Tomorrow, we are back on the job. Three years ago management and the bargaining unit agreed to the terms of a contract. In our current contract negotiations, management has offered exceedingly less than what they agreed to previously. They have not attempted to substansiate why we should agree to less. But, we are still bargaining, albeit without a contract since it ran out a month ago. They still the opportunity to bring a reasonable offer to the table. Bad service. We are highly individualized. Expect everything. We are jerks. We are etiquette mavens. But whatever is our personal style, we have been working under increasing duress since we got uppity enough to unionize. That means over 4 years of disrespect from management, and the outward expressions in which that that disrespect takes form. Consider your own job, if you were treated with constant disrespect by your superiors, how smiley-nice-cheery-all-the-time would you be? Sometimes we can put on a good face, sometimes we can't. Please support any further strikes and other actions. And please trust that we would not ask your help if we could protect our jobs without community support. (Okay, that makes 5 things.)

WHY DON'T YOU QUIT WHINNING 12.Nov.2003 20:36

had enuf already

Just wondering if "please-just-quit" that signed the rant entitled "SICK TO DEATH OF THE WHINING" has a last name
of POWELL? That one sure sounded like a Press Release prepared by a Public Relations specialist to me. Funny!
I support the strikers/workers, but woe to Powell's as I don't give two cents for them...they've make enuf already!

What! 12.Nov.2003 22:08

Can it be?

can it possibly be that powell's has customers? who are unhappy with the service? I mean people who buy things so that you can support yourselves? they don't factor into the equation except as assholes or diguised powells managers evidently. Kids, sheesh, they want want the adults work for.

can it be? 12.Nov.2003 22:19

wondering

Could it be that people who actually want better service from Powell's might support the worker's having a contract which might elicit better service? Also note that no one has complained about Powell's before these stories about the contract negotiations and strike. Furthermore, a lot of people are commenting to this particular thread and not 1 person has made a disparaging comment to the feature on the front page of the site. Hmmm, does it sound like some is sending a url around? Can it be that management would want to post to try and discourage workers? Can it be that they would stoop to such tactics? Maybe indymedia will do as alex suggests and provide a report of the ip's being used to post to this thread. What do *you* think that would show? Even dial-up's can be traced to a phone number.

isps 13.Nov.2003 00:06

anonymous

I believe Indymedia has stated that its policy is not to store isps, or keep track of who posts what. This allows people to feel relatively safe, and keep Indymedia open to as many views as possible. It would be unethical for them to make an exception in any case.

It's open publishing. Open and fair to all sides. It's up to us all to sift through the lies as best we can.

Anyone can lie, but what does it matter, all things being fair?

policy 13.Nov.2003 00:20

reader

I don't think portland has a published policy about abuse. Here's sf's:

Due to repeated denial-of-service (DOS)/spam attacks conducted against the sf.indymedia.org website, SF IMC may at times log all webserver activity, including client IP addresses. Any such logs will be stored on a RAM disk and discarded within 24 to 48 hours. SF IMC reserves the right to send reports of DOS/spam activity to the spammer's internet service provider, and to post them publicly on its website. Only log entries pertaining directly to clear cases of website abuse will be so disseminated and/or preserved.

 http://sf.indymedia.org/process/privacy.php

Perhaps portland does something similar.

Are the powell's posters scared yet? You should be...

As for whether it's ethical, powell's posting in the guise of someone else is deliberate disinformation and would violate the published editorial policy of this site. And if lawyers had access to that kind of information, well, they might be able to make use of it... And if not, the publicity may not be that great. Think of the headlines: "Powell's publishes lies to discourage and harass workers." Sensational...

regardless of IMC policy 13.Nov.2003 08:13

alex

Has anyone noticed that since the subject was mentioned the trolls have vanished. This isn't evidence that they were inside Powells, but were uncomfortable with being identified.

As for open publishing necessitating anonymity, I disagree. Of course I don't support handing info over to feds, but individuals should be able to ask IMC for info on posters if only to administer some stick justice.

Who's intimidating who? 13.Nov.2003 09:52

with us or against us?

"Are the powell's posters scared yet? You should be... "

"...if only to administer some stick justice. "

Let's see...So, anyone who questions you or your tactics should be afraid? Nice. Shout down your detractors with threats.

Maybe those ip addresses will show who's really into harassing others.

the point 13.Nov.2003 10:19

alex

The point I was making was that the constant flaming across the entire site would likely be diminished if people didn't feel so comfortable in their anonymity. I am completely happy to defend my posts in a face to face conversation and have on many occasions. Sometimes, fightin' words are used in these threads, and they are normally employed by people using assumed names. Yes, if the possibility of someone confronting you about what you've stated scares you, you should either think twice about posting or get comfortable defending your positions. If you are engaged in police disinformation, harassment, rumor mongering or slander you should be exposed for public scrutiny. Giving free speech to those who are too cowardly to back up what they say is irresponsible.

"Let's see...So, anyone who questions you or your tactics should be afraid? Nice. Shout down your detractors with threats."

It is not a threat to simply describe how the world works. If IMC posters were identified, half of them would probably not post at all and the other half would be far more polite.

With the exception of me.

I will always be comfortable calling folks like "with us or against us", dimwitted reactionaries and cowardly pigfucking bootlicks.

Stick Justice 13.Nov.2003 11:46

meow

Who decides what is harrassment? Slander? The comments I read looked like criticisms of Powell's employees and their demands. Someone who disagrees may feel slandered or harrassed. Does it make it so. Stick justice advocates are bullies who secretly would love to be cops but wouldn't cut it.

"I will always be comfortable calling folks like "with us or against us", dimwitted reactionaries and cowardly pigfucking bootlicks."

Great. I am sure folks like with us or against us have some choice names for you. What are you going to do? Escalate with more names? Threats of "stick justice"? The real thing?

quibble, quibble 13.Nov.2003 15:05

alex

I never advocated violence against anyone. I'm not a violent person. All I'm suggesting is that people who refuse to attach their names to their inflamatory statements are cowards. People who shoot their mouths off like many on this thread (myself included) should take responsibility for their words. If others want to serve as enablers to such cowardice, that's their row to hoe.

People shouldn't be too surprised when their identities become known and shouldn't get their feelings hurt when others want to confront them. If managers at Powell's have in fact been flaming the Powell's workers, they should be identified and let things take their natural course from there. If people want to work things out quietly and come to a meeting of the minds, good for them. If somebody gets invited on a day hike in the gorge and gets pushed off a cliff into Eagle Creek, that's unfortunate, but it's not my place to judge.

It seems that this thread has grown pretty far from the original discussion. Managers who worked the store yesterday were put in an awkward position. I'm sure many of them were not comfortable scabbing, but lacked the spine to refuse. That is what makes a good manager and its the reason they have the job. They should give a little more thought to their role in the world, and look closely at who they are serving and who they a screwing.

Get real!!! 14.Nov.2003 00:13

What the?

Oh, Wahhhhhhh, Powells workers have to pay for some of there health care costs.....tough luck! Look at the world around you...healthcare cost are rising for EVERYONE, it's not just you. The ILWU 5 seems like the most selfish union ever! You give ALL other unions a big black eye! If you dont like how they are treating you at Powells- QUIT, there are MANY VERY GOOD people who could take your job and do MUCH better at it without all the cryin!!!

I understand the annoyance 14.Nov.2003 01:51

anonymous

I understand the annoyance that some people feel, when they have to struggle for so little, and don't have any power to raise their wages and benefits (if any), and then they see and hear the very public complaints of Powell's employees, who might have it better than they do.

But maybe Powell's employees aren't comparing themselves to other workers. Maybe they are comparing themselves to Michael Powell, or Powell's management, or to the company itself. If the company is doing so well, why can't it be fair to it's employees? That's not too much to ask. Michael Powell is not having problems taking care of his family, his business is not in danger of going under, not even close. He's just in danger of having lower than desired profits. Employee healthcare should be more important, especially when you're still swimming in dough.

I am also annoyed at some of the rhetoric tossed around on this subject. There really is nothing special about the people who work at Powell's. They are qualified and lucky. In the view of the company, they are all dispensible, and replaceable. There are many out of work people who would jump at the chance for a job at Powell's. It's not as nice as it seems? Compare it to other workplaces. Is it really that bad?

But the union has made it more difficult to toss people away. The previous poster called ILWU 5 the most selfish union around. Selfish compared to who? Compared to Powell's? No. The union is just doing it's job. That is to look after the interests of its workers. It doesn't mean Powell's workers are special. It just means they have an organization that's looking out for them.

When Powell's employees say that the company is a success because of them, it is laughable. That's not a compelling argument and shouldn't be the reason Powell's decides to treat them fairly. Powell's should pay decent wages and benefits because it's the right thing to do.

Poor treatment at Powells 14.Nov.2003 04:50

Duncan

I dont get it. I have been shopping at Powells for years, and have never had a bad expierence there. Maybe its because I believe in treating people with respect and courtesy. The people there have always been helpfull and polite. Maybe they havent always been effusive and over-happy in that syrupy walmart way, but I hate that crap. If someone is having a shitty day, all I expect from them is courtesy and assitance. I have always had that at Powells, on hundreds of occasions over years of going there. I would suggest that the people who are complaining so loudly here are the kind of rude shoppers who interupt others, have a know-it-all attitude or expect a rim job with their retail service.

Go Local 5 14.Nov.2003 12:56

Ex-Powells

"When Powell's employees say that the company is a success because of them, it is laughable."

But it is a success because of them. If you knew anything about the history of Powells you would know this. The union organized precisely because Michael Powell, in the early 90's, set about on a course of what would be known as "knowledge-piracy". He poached the real knowledge, experience and skills of a generation of Powells employees who had been working there since his father's time. He took all those things, and restructured the store to take away the creativity, flexibility and autonomy of departments that had truly made Powells a "city of books." In doing so he instituted the sort of Taylorized production regime that holds at most factories, making employees replaceable, managers petty tyrants and subjecting employees to the whims of management. That is one of the principal reasons Powells was organized - to protect the working environment, and in anticipation of the increasing Taylorization of the workplace, a process which continues, often in violation of the contract, full-speed ahead to this day.

censoring 14.Nov.2003 13:48

again

Indymedia is censoring again. What has this outfit got against alternative viewpoints? Powell's employee's are often rude or indifferent. As a customer since- jeez, the 70s. Service has declined in recent years. I believe it to be
largely due to a juvenille indifferance to customer needs and management concerns. Admit that it is the exception to the rule, but it clings on. It really colors and degades a powell's visit. And for pete's sake don't denounce people because they speak their truth. When you do that you are enacting what is the chief complaint by customers of powell's who don't have sympathy for unionization.

To Ex-Powells 14.Nov.2003 17:15

anonymous

Well you certainly know more about Powell's than I do, judging by your name. I do have a vague knowledge that there used to be an emphasis on the knowledge of employees... that for instance art history majors might be working in the art book dept., etc. I remember reading that this started to fall apart when Powell's went through it's major expansion or change, and that unionization was a response to the changes. I did read that.

When I say it's laughable I just mean that Powell's could have done the same thing with another equally qualified group of people. There are tons out there. It was Powells' decision to hire those kinds of people, which made the store special. He could have done it with another set of people. That's why I said Powell's employees are qualified and lucky. When I say they are not special, I don't mean they aren't special the way everyone is, or valuable the way everyone is... I just mean Michael Powell and his management must know that they could have done the same thing with another set of qualified people. And the population at large that looks at this issue will think the same thing. I think that's why there is some hostile feedback especially to this part of the issue. Nobody at Powell's is irreplaceable.

I just see that there is a lot of arguing over this part of the issue that is wasteful. The real issue, in my opinion, is that a company that is making so much money should make it a priority to pay their employees decent wages and benefits. They should do this because it is the right and decent thing to do.

If you argue that Powell's employees are special (I know not all are doing that), you won't get much agreement from the other side, or from the majority of on-lookers. If you argue that a company swimming in money should strive to be decent as well as profitable, than anyone who argues with you exposes themselves for what they are... this should be the focus. No decent person can argue with you. And decency and responsibility should be given more emphasis in business. All the problems we are having now in business are due to the increasing acceptance of the idea that the ONLY thing that is important is profit, that unethical behavior is okay as long at it contributes to the bottom line, etc., etc. It is suicidal. Powell's should be realizing that.

Carpe clue 15.Nov.2003 14:12

Ian -first contract bargaining team member

Hi there,

There is a lot of bleating about Powell's workers - paid too much, lazy, et cetera. Most people encounter employees when they are at information or cashiering shifts where they are not allowed to leave, browse the internet, or (while I worked there) read a book or magazine. Yes, everyone looks lazy then. I used to take unpriced books with me to shifts to multitask but this was discouraged so that everyone would give better customer service. The main store on Burnside has about 200 employees, most of whom are busy labelling books, receiving books, pricing books, answering phones and shelving - but often in areas away from customer eyes. My own schedule at Powell's had about 15 out of 40 hours as "public". Currently I work in a research lab investigating plant virus structure, but my used book buying job at Powell's on Burnside required more training and talent than basic research in structural biology. Even if you worked at another used bookstore, you cannot replace a used book buyer without about a year and a half of training. These are skilled workers, who I long for whenever I encounter the illiteracy of a Barnes and Noble or Borders in my new home.

During the life of the contract (last three years) Powell's has reduced it's workforce through attrition and gotten leaner, doing the same amount of work with increasingly experienced people who stay due to their union benefits. Some of these folks (including some managers) have started families and purchased houses based on the contract structure and the ongoing success of the business. This contract dispute has one big issue - helathcare. Powell's workers, even management and anti-union employees, love the affordable and comprehensive healthcare which the union protected during the first contract. Mike Powell (for it is his decision in the end) wants to shift the monetary burden of healthcare to his workers. It is his right to try, and it is the right of his employees to resist. The workers are "whining" about being able to afford to live their life - you know, the American dream where people work, raise kids and enjoy the weekend? To do this they need affordable healthcare, because they are probably not going to ever make $30,000 a year in the floor jobs (the technical workers in the union do better).

I often got the "why don't you get a better job?" crap from various and sundry folks as I walked the line in the first contract. I did get a better job, I just didn't have to fill out an application or go to interviews to get it. I fought for it. Grad school beckoned in my case, but why do people have a hard time understanding the desire to have a good job, where you can earn enought money to live on and build a family? Or perhaps there's some jealousy amongst the posts that a bunch of service industry workers were able to create a haven for the American dream in a bookstore. It's nice to raise a family without some hideous professionally salaried sweatshop kind of job (attorney, investment banker, programmer) where you work 60+ hours a week. Believe me, the books would not be cheaper if the employees made less money, Mike would just be a little richer at the end of the year (believe me, he's doing fine financially).

I also got the "you aren't oppressed enough for me to care" spiel once in a while. Look - no one likes getting dicked around work. If someone is unjustly targeted or picked on that's par for the course in non-union environments, but it's illegal under the Powell's contract and no one on this site seems to care that Mike Powell consistantly encourages his minions to break the law. I apologize that the Powell's staff does not consist of malnourished Cambodian sweatshop workers who you could appropriately sympathize with, but where up the chain is it ok to start oppressing people? What is the logic here? "They're a bunch of college educated white kids - surely they cannot be oppressed. Maybe if they were stupid or some ethnic minority I could feel compassion, but those well-educated paraprofessionals just don't cut it. Let's take our business to Whole Fooods surely they are not oppressed and angry like these uppity Powell's workers" (see www.wholeworkersunite.org).

But the main thing people seem to be missing is that bargaining is a right, striking against an unfair labor practice is legal, and the need for affordable healthcare is basic to 21st century life. Job actions like this one are designed to put pressure on Mike Powell by making it unpleasant to shop at the store and reduce profits. Oh horror! Yes, the contract was designed to run out in early October so that job actions like this one would be hitting right as the Christmas season started. Even three years ago we knew that management preferred giving money to labor lawyers than actual workers. The union will slowly escalate it's actions until they are either broken or win. If you cannot stand the hubbub, and go elsewhere, the union wins. Your shopping options include the virulently anti-union Borders (who's workers are striking - really striking - in Ann Arbor right now, see www.bordersunion.com) or the genuinely bad selection of a typical Barnes and Noble.

closed shop redux 15.Nov.2003 14:21

Ian former bteam member

Closed shops are illegal in the United States. Powell's has a "Union Shop" which means all members of the bargaining unit have to pay dues for the portion of the union's expenses that include grievances and contract negotiation (i.e. - there's no free lunch). The union does not legally have the option of not representing any person in the bargaining unit (and that's all non-managerial staff). You do not have to be a member of the union at Powell's, but you simply cannot vote in election of the officers or participate in union decisions and still have to pay as noted above. So, if you worked at Powell's, you could be paying union dues, but not be a member of the union. You would pay a little less than others, but probably about 90% of what union members pay.