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ILWU local #5 strike

the ILWU local number 5 won a big victory today in front of Powells books downtown Portland store. At 2:30 pm the daily shipment of internet orders did not go out. "No Mail today!!" someone yelled as the USPS worker shut the doors to his empty truck. the Powells workers are on strike to protest unfair labor practices by the powells corporation including surveillance, super supervision and discriminating against union supporters.
hundreds of people showed up today to help the powells workers get the word out. People picketed the dowtown store of Powells books to bring attention to practices by the powells corporation which violate the national labor laws.
ILWU local number 5 won a big victory today in front of Powells books downtown Portland store. At 2:30 pm the daily shipment of internet orders did not go out. "No Mail today!!" someone yelled as the USPS worker shut the doors to his empty truck. the Powells workers are on strike to protest unfair labor practices by the powells corporation including surveillance, super supervision and discriminating against union supporters.
some other successes today:
The Beaverton store had 100% call out today meaning that 100% of the regulars workers called out of work and only one temp showed up to cross picket lines.
Many people turned away at the door of the downtown store upon hearing of the reason for the picket.

what kind of power? UNION POWER!

Keep it up 12.Nov.2003 19:15


I'm not crossin' the picket line

I heard the managers were all standing around 12.Nov.2003 19:32


I heard the managers who were forced to staff the store were all just standing around. Don't they know that If they have time to lean, they have time to clean?

rock on 12.Nov.2003 22:37

need a book

I'll make a point to shop at Powell's for a book I need. There ought to be a new federal law, "obstruction of capitalism" for which you strikers can be taken away on the paddy wagon and let *real* Americans take your jobs and work hard for a living, not under some namby-pamby union laws that you think gives you the right to cause a ruckus when you don't get more money.

powell's has some tough lessons to learn 12.Nov.2003 23:48

computer guy

The problem with focusing on the bottom line is that it blinds you to the complexities of the world. My work, for example, is not factored into their bottom line. I've set up numerous websites, especially for professors and when they want to link to books for sale I have pushed them to powell's instead of amazon.com. Well, I guess I won't be doing that anymore. And while the numbers of books sold through those links may have been insignificant in the grand scheme of things it was significant free advertising. And when people I know come to visit portland instead of going to powell's I'll just take them to a number of smaller, friendlier bookstores. Perhaps this is for the best. But I suspect the owners and managers may not be happy with the results of their actions. Well, I suppose we all need to learn that all our actions have consequences that ripple beyond what we may intend and that respect can only be earned through the respect of others.

need a book is right! 12.Nov.2003 23:50


We need to do away with anything that interferes with capitalism. We need to do away with paid wages altogether. Think of how good our economy will be once we go back to true slavery. That will show those powell's workers we mean business. We can make them work harder through torture, maiming, and even killing one of them every so often as an example to the rest. It's time for the pro-slavery revolution. Besides "need a book" who else is with me?

waaaaaaaaaaaa!!! 12.Nov.2003 23:51


What a bunch of whiners -- get over yourselves. I see all the buttons saying "Working Without a Contract". Boo-fucking-hoo. Guess what? I've never worked *with* a contract before. I've never made more than $8 an hour since I graduated college. Yes, it sucks, but I don't expect anybody to feel sorry for me. "Powells is unfair to workers!" "Shame on you!" Do you think that you're special? Do you think that your situation is uniquely bad? Do you expect regular people who might be working a much less plush job for shittier wages and no benefits to feel sorry for you? Shit, we would take your job for half the pay and no benefits in a heartbeat! Maybe we should. We would be scabs, but according to the standards of left-wing victim-mongering, shouldn't people feel more sorry for us because we make less than you do?

And I don't buy any of that BS about unions being universally beneficial to all workers. Unions benefit *some* workers at the expense of others. Unions are similar to medieval craft guilds -- they exist to protect the interests of their members and nobody else. I fully expect people to do what ever is necessary to defend their interests, but the notion that promoting the special interests of unionized workers somehow eventually raises all boats is pure ideology and the creation of union propaganda.

And no, I'm not pro-capitalist. My views of capitalism are actually fairly negative (although I do credit it with playing an important role in developing technology and streamlining its production). However, I recognize that unions are no more than special interests groups who try to create the illusion that they are something more.

alright another joiner 13.Nov.2003 00:05


Come on "annoyed": slavery for all, wages for none. Anyone that asks for a living wage is a communist... No, wait, because it's against capitalism they're a terrorist. Enslave all the godless commie terrorists that believe people should be paid for their work. Things were much better in this country when women, blacks, and immigrants were all property. Let's all support powell's in their efforts to take us back to those happier times.

pfaw! 13.Nov.2003 00:32


Pro-slavery: I can tell from your cliche sarcasm that I didn't really read what I wrote at all. I'm not supporting a particular ideology or side. I'm saying that the ILWU tactics are whiney and annoying, and that they aren't special.

I felt like taking chalk and writing things like "Winger Rules!" and "Foreigner Kicks Ass!" just to lighten up the absurd rhetoric scrawled all over the sidewalk.

those damn unions 13.Nov.2003 00:48


"that I didn't really read what I wrote at all"

Well, next time you should. I know I got a laugh out of it.

And I completely agree, their tactics are whiney and annoying. Whatever happened to unions going around with sticks of dynamite and blowing up buildings? Now that would make them special don't you think? Those were real tactics that real men and real americans could respect.

Now let's bring back the cat o' nine tails. If you can afford to eat you're getting paid too much. Prosperity is only for the wealthy. Life was a dream before the unions ruined everything. You could kill a thousand workers and not even have to say you were sorry. Those were the days... Can you imagine if slaves had had unions, think of how much trouble that would have caused. No, best to do away with unions, wages, benefits, and just put people in cages except when they're needed to work. Then this country will once again be the bastion of capitalism God intended.

Whiney? 13.Nov.2003 02:18


There's nothing whiney about calling attention to violations of Labor Law or asking for a fair contract. Don't cry for me. Don't feel bad about it. You can show your support in other, more constructive ways. Tell my bosses that you think they should stop being bashful and show us 'the books'. It shoud be easy to convince me that even status quo is not affordable for Powell's. Tell them you think that they should quit trying to influence negotiations by intimidating members of the Union bargaining team. Instead they should come to the table with a reasonable offer. The sooner the better.
Thanks for all the solidarity shown by the workers and community today! It was an inspiring day.

to "annoyed" 13.Nov.2003 02:51


hey annoyed-
being in close proximity to one of these powell's workers, whom you would deem "pathetic whiners", gives me some fairly decent perspective on their situation. i don't think they are necessarily looking for people to feel sorry for them, nor do they necessarily think themselves "special", or that their situation is "uniquely bad". they are looking for people to support them, as would you in a similar situation.

powell's is not the shining holy grail of workplaces that people think it is. yes, their workers are treated "well" in many ways, but only when held up to the pitiful standards that workers in general must endure, which i am sure you're aware of, having never made more than $8/hr. (maybe you should try and organize your workplace....then maybe you could make more than $8/hr and have a little less financial stress) and i'm sure you wouldn't want their job at half their wages, as you said....would you want to work your ass off, always behind and making up the slack for positions that were vacated and never filled again so the company could earn more profit for roughly $4.50/hr? good fucking luck living on that.

they are collectively in a position where the offer that powell's is making would constitute a yearly DROP in wages for them. they would only be getting annual raises that fall below inflation, and also be paying 40% of their health care premiums. all of this added together means that their take home pay would shrink. is that palatable to you? how do you expect this to be palatable to these people, many of them who have been with the company for years, and many of them who have families they're trying to support? these aren't all "young hipsters" with little in terms of needs and responsiblities, as many people perceive. and even if they were, so what? everybody deserves a living, fair wage for the time and effort they put into somebody else's profit, especially powell's books, who just finished buying a warehouse complete with $70,000 in landscaping for their ever-expanding internet sales department, and whose owner, michael powell, actually rents that whole downtown block to himself.

i personally think that powell's should be a little more grateful to their employees, as should all businesses, as it is off the workers' backs that all businesses function and profit. but since most businsses, especially large, corporate ones, always have their eye primarily on the bottom line, most businesses have historically done only the bare minimum for their workers in order to keep that profit high. workers have had to fight tooth and nail for every advance that has been made, and like it or not, unions have been a big part in that. would you rather be working in sweatshop conditions for $.12/hr fourteen hours a day six days a week? that would be the reality for everyone here, as it is for countless others abroad (and many illegals here as well), had the current limits on exploitation not been fought for.

i think your comment about not buying "any of that BS about unions being universally beneficial to all workers" is your baggage man, i don't think that was mentioned anywhere that i've seen in this article. i think (hope) there are few that harbor illusions about the realities of many unions in terms of corruption etc. but what's a worker gonna do against such a lopsided, top-down power structure? there has to be some way to gain leverage to get (closer to) their worth. and yeah, they do exist primarily for the benefit of their members, but the gains that have been fought for have rippled out into society and formed new standards, albeit limited ones in my view. every gain ups the ante in terms of expectations regarding how employers should treat the people they derive their profit and very existence from.

so unions are not the answer, rather a band-aid at best, necessary in the current context as a safeguard, but definitely not an end goal unto themselves. i personally think we need to take down this whole wretched system institution by institution, which would hopefully mean the end of "work" (aka wage slavery) as we know it, and the function of unions. in my mind the way we have set things up runs counter to the human spirit, counter to nature, and counter to logic, as a system based on unlimited growth and development is inherently unstable and must some day implode due to no more resources to exploit and nowhere else to "develop". it is all-consumptive and someday it is going to end, the only question is whether its going to be a hard fall or a somewhat softer landing.


"annoyed" feels like a punk for his typo 13.Nov.2003 08:06

"annoyed"s friend

Yes, "annoyed" feels totally punked out because of his typo..."that I didn't really read what I wrote at all".

He won't be responding any more. Please be kind to him. He is one of those mamas boy libertarians, you know the type, pudgy and doesn't get much action, and resents any form or organization because he is doomed to be forever alone. He is serious that he'll scab on you, though. He'll sell anybody out for a dollar. Watch out.

Why do bookstore workers.... 13.Nov.2003 23:43

Shop @ Powells!!!

...need to be unionized, especially by the "ILWU?" You work at a damn bookstore...your not a dock worker. I will make a point of shopping at Powells everytime I need a book. What you "workers" are doing is shooting yourself in the foot, which is REALLY funny!

Powell's Books 14.Nov.2003 00:48

It's a real job!

Retail workers deserve respect from their bosses and the customers. As do all service sector employees. Some people need to have someone to look down upon and get their kicks dumping on waitpersons and sales clerks. In time they will learn the folly of their ways.
Oh yeah, and tell the employees of Stacey's in San Francisco that their a "damn bookstore...not dockworker(s)". They've been part of the ILWU for over 20 years. It's a great, democratic Union.

Non Union can support union actions 14.Nov.2003 04:27


Im not in a union, in fact Im an "indepant contractor" (ie I pay my own airfare and taxes. I still wont cross a picket line. My reasoning is this- I know what it feels like to get screwed. I get screwed every day. My situation is different because I am in a limited entry proffession (ie there are only five people who do what I do) and the demand keeps prices high. People in larger preffesions need a union to do what the five of us do - keep our wages in the middle class range.

As to "Ive never made more then 8$ since graduating from college". I spent a long time doing the same thing. You have got to turn your education unto a proffesion. This may mean going back to school for more education, or making yourself more employable in some other way (ie apprenticeship pogam) If you need help with your student loans contact William D. Ford Debt consalidation program, they buy defaulted student loans. Why shouldnt the people who work at Powells have a decent wage and health care? Because you dont?

Hey does anyone know where I can shop for books? Amazon is way out, now Powells is out, anyone have info on this. Hell Ill buy all my books at Borders if they treat their employees well.

that's a damn good question, Duncan. 14.Nov.2003 08:09


I try to get stuff from the library whenever possible, and they're pretty responsive to new book requests if they don't currently have the book you're looking for. Also Laughing Horse has some lefty stuff. I can't think of many other options, and would like to see Powell's sign a new contract so I can go back, even if it is only occasionally.

ILWU 14.Nov.2003 12:48


Why have the Teamsters organized McDonalds? Why has the UAW organized TA's at major universities? Because that is who is there to do the organizing! If you knew anything about Powells and how and why the workers decided to organize, you would know that they considered several different unions before joining with the ILWU. It offered them a seperate local (Local 5) which is a specifically non-maritime shipping union within the ILWU, which also is hoping to organize food service workers, hospital workers etc. It also offered them complete democratic control over their own local without meddling by the International executive. THAT is why Powells workers are an ILWU local. And if you could extrapolate the name - International Longshore and Warehouse Union - many jobs at Powells would fit perfectly under the rubric of being Warehouse jobs.

Further, as the economy moves from being industrial to post-industrial (ie manufacturing jobs, the traditional province of organized labor, are being shipped overseas), unions are moving to organize workers in the new service industries that are springing up as the main employer of Americans. To not organize them just because they are not "workers" by your pathetic 1920's definition of the term, is moronic. That is the only way workers will get better conditions until we can organize to pull down the whole damn system.

No one is whining but you - whining about the fact that working people won't act like slaves.

Striking Workers 14.Nov.2003 13:47

blue hole

I generally support unions and even strikes when necessary, but has anyone noticed what crappy service one regularly gets at Powells? They are almost all surly, nasty, crabby, and uninterested in their work. It's hard to feel sympathy. Customer service training anyone?

not the best solution 14.Nov.2003 14:33

portland worker 15 years waiting on this community

to the Powells worker who was brave enough to write in earlier today:

It's hard to believe that the union of workers at the best job I have ever had, is also struggling for fair pay in the big picture of Powells profts. I would've loved the benefits when I was working behind a coffee counter, at a daycare, and the other places I was *nickel & dimed* legally as an unskilled laborer. But I developed some skills, and trained as well, for the first few years at Powells, adding bookstore retail to my customer service talent. But in 1998 the bottom dropped out and I was getting pay cuts and benefit cuts, as the company's profits (through the years of the closing of many independent bookstores,) *increased* and Michael Powell built a huge building with borrowed money based on a *profitable* business. But my pay was cut? Our benefits were getting cut and downsized, a new one each month? Before ILWU Local 5 fought for and preserved that christmas bonus and cost of living pay adjustments AND those very small performance raises, POWELLS WORKERS WERE BEING CUT OUT OF POWELLS PROFITS.

Response to many issues in this forum 15.Nov.2003 12:02

Bookstore Customer

With regard to the initial topic of this forum, I honestly can't comment entirely on the aspect of Powell's unionization and their bargaining. I have heard and read many of the details concerning their negotiations, yet can't formulate any solid theories in the absence of true data. With that said, I intend for all of this to stem from my personal experiences as a bookstore patron and current small business owner.
First and foremost, I love Powell's for all it is. Anytime I have needed a book, most (and I emphasize most) of the employees I have encountered were more than willing to help me find it...some going beyond their "call of duty" to assist. For those who weren't entirely helpful or pleasant (usually at the downtown store versus any of the smaller stores), I have to check it off as a bad day or something to that effect. On top of job duties that none of us outside of the business know about, can you imagine dealing with a variety of people at an unbelievable rate throughout the day? The people that I have observed at the stores aren't always the nicest or brightest people, particularly when they don't get exactly what they want. I don't know if I could force a smile after being verbally accosted throughout the day for issues I had no control over. Moreover, I for one don't exactly care to have a bookstore employee force-feeding happiness on me as I browse for books. Powell's is not Borders or Nordstrom. Try going to any smaller bookstore in the Portland area and see if any employee (or owner) will bend over and kiss your ass for just walking in the doors. Once again, most of the employees I encounter are enthusiastic about their jobs, usually running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and thankfully typical and knowledgeable bookstore folk. If I were to encounter an employee that was condescending or abusive to a customer, the first thing I would do is talk to a manager in lieu of complaining about it on Indy Media.
As for a living wage and health care, those workers are entitled to just that if Powell's can comfortably muster the costs (once again, not enough data to completely throw out an argument). If not, c'est la vie. For those people who compare themselves to Powell's employees and say that they don't have good insurance but aren't whining...you are doing just that my friends. Why bother making the point if you yourself aren't willing to do something about it outside of criticizing a movement that is at least trying. Let them do what they need and have the cards fall where they may.
As for crossing a picket line...why? Is it that important to buy a book at that very moment? For anyone that visits this site, it surprises me that an urge to be a consumer for a day outweighs decent respect for employees of a Portland institution. Did anyone here talk to one of them instead of basing your ideas on what is on this site? Did anyone talk to Powell's management or Michael Powell to get their side?
As a city, we're lucky to have Powell's...with all of its quirks. Outside of strikes, I will still gladly buy and sell books at their many stores. For those of you opposed to all of this, try the yellow pages for local bookstores (ie. Great Northwest, Wrigley Cross,etc.) and see what you experience in terms of selection, prices and customer service. It's a free market after all...

support another Oregon Union Bookstore 15.Nov.2003 17:00

Emma Vermont

The workers at Mother Kali's Books in Eugene formed a union w/ the IWW this past spring. The Board of Directors of the non-profit did voluntarily recognize the staff . This 30 year old "feminist institution" needs your support!

keep fighting the fight 16.Nov.2003 14:24

vanessa renwick

I started working at Powell's in the late 80's. Powell's was getting ready to lay off 40 workers in 3 days time, and none of us knew whose head was going to get chopped. Things were tense. At the time, I had a buzz cut and I was manning an info station in the Children's section when Michael Powell walked up to me. We had never spoken before. He said, "Must cost a lot to keep up that hair cut." I replied, "Oh no, Michael Brophy (another employee) cuts it for free." Then Michael Powell said, " Oh, then it doesn't matter if we lay you off." laughed and walked away.
My jaw dropped.
I wasn't one of the 40 to get laid off. I actually stayed there and fought the first unionizing attempt, thinking that Powell's was the cream of the crop of the shit jobs. ( If you work there and want a good laugh, go back to the day books of the time and read my anti-union rants) But as time went on, and I started the Small Press and Journals section, the Erotica section, and the small press dew.claw reading series, books were constantly taken out of my section and reviewed by managers. My section partner, Scott Howard, and I, had to constantly fight to keep books in the store. This was at the same time that Powell's was plastered with huge posters in their windows saying "NO TO CENSORSHIP". This was only one of many stomach turning management techniques that we had to deal with. I ended up quitting due to the situations I was forced to deal with and Powell's granted me unemployment, as the unemployment office decided that I had a full right to it for the conditions I was dealing with.
Powell's used to pay their employees, many who were artists, to hand letter the shelf labels, paint murals on the walls, etc. Then they switched to computer labels and no artwork. They started having est-like management companies with names like LIONHEART manage the managers. I suggest the managers get off their padded horses and go back to the good old days, when they used to go to Sauvie Island and take acid together. Maybe it would jog their memories on what working together should be about. It really is a shame that such an amazing resource treats its employees as if they don't matter much.

pecking order 05.Dec.2003 13:26

former liberal arts major

This is all sad. Powell's employees need to realize their place in the economic pecking order of compensation, which is based on market value. There are thousands of liberal arts majors with few marketable skills stuck in retail. I know; I was one. Powell's employees should apply for a job at Borders or B&N for a wake-up call.

A friend of mine who speaks fluent German applied for a CS job at Amazon.com to work their international line. Paid about the same as every other opening. "But I speak fluent German. I bring more to the company." No, it is not what you bring, but what a customer will pay. And where else does a German major go to work? Is Amazon.com having secret meetings about the crisis recruiting German speakers for their CS jobs because of the high demand at the competing business down the street? Of course not. Hundreds of German majors with no other options fighting for a few retail jobs translate to poor compensation. Notice I don't spend extra to find a German speaker when I call Amazon.com for assistance with a gift for a European friend. So why should management?

I changed tracks and went into engineering. Times are still tough, but I have fewer competitors for each job.

My health care still went up thirteen percent this year.

lie there and take it?? 08.Dec.2003 20:55

union member

So it's just a race to the bottom, is it? Call it foolish idealism, but if nobody works to improve things, there is no progress. We can thank the Labor movement for the 5 day work week, as well as child labor laws. There is nothing wrong with asking compensation for what you actually work for. Accepting this "pecking order", or more like caste system is disgusting and apathetic.

what is it worth? 09.Dec.2003 14:09

market value

It is a race to the bottom, assuming your skills are no different than the other philosophy majors out of Reed or some other red brick building with Latin inscribed on the stone entry. Majors, professions, and skills should be selected and developed with awareness of market value.

I pay a lot more for medical care or a well-engineered bridge than I do for customer service at a bookstore.

I don't pay any more for a book from Borders than I do from Powell's.

what is the status of the strike? 17.Dec.2003 17:26

deborah higdon dlhigdon#comcast.net

Is the strike ongoing?