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Speak out Powell's Workers

We are a group of communication students from Lewis and Clark College studying the local conflict between the management of Powell's and the ILWU Local #5 Union. We are interested in talking with any Union members willing to discuss a range of issues.
We have been following the Powell's conflict and are looking for any Union members who would speak to us about your take or opinion on the situation. We would greatly appreciate hearing about not just the Union's key interests, actions, and posistions but also the way in which the communication between parties affected the management and potential resolution of the conflict. We are particuarly interested in the communication strategies used by both sides as well as other issues such as the affect of power on the conflict.

We are currenly constructing a list of more specific questions but for now are just seeking Union members who would be willing to talk with us. If possible, please contact me at the information listed at the end of the article. That way we could determine how best to talk with you. This does not have to be formal, we could just email some questions and that's it, or we could have a formal interview. It's up to you. If you don't feel comfortable talking with us directly, please feel free to post a reply in any way you desire.

We would also appreciate if anyone could give us any information about the following questions:

-Could we attend ILWU Local #5 Union meetings, if so, which Tuesday is the public welcome, and what time are the meetings?
-Does anyone know a member of management who would be willing to discuss such issues with us?

We greatly appreciate anyone willing to reply this post directly or indirectly.

Email me, Kevin, at  newman@lclark.edu

Thanks once again.
isn't this settled? 19.Mar.2004 09:54

bookie

I understood that the workers are in the midst of settling with Powell's. Is that still the case? Because I went back there when I heard the news and bought like, a ton of books. Do I need to reconsider and take them back???

last post about powell's 20.Mar.2004 03:40

you figure it out -- tell us what you decide

from  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/03/282349.shtml

08.Mar.2004 17:09
economic justice | health | labor
Safeway strike settles; tentative agreement at Powell's
author: Red Emma e-mail:e-mail:  redemma13@yahoo.com

Jobs with Justice reports that Powell's workers have reached a tentative agreement that preserves their health care coverage and includes 2% annual wage increases. Look for more coverage on this as it comes up for a ratification vote.

[also:]

YAY on both counts! 08.Mar.2004 19:16
especially powells

I'm really happy for the safeway workers, and for the rest of us who will benefit from the bar having been raised. (I still won't buy anything at safeway, in support of the RAGE boycott on safeway for their refusal to agree not to hide GE foods in the products they sell, but this is at least good for the workers.)

It's also been great to hear of an impending settlement at Powell's that will allow workers to keep their healthcare benefits. I confess, I went to Powell's yesterday as soon as I heard the news. Technically, I know I should have waited till the vote was final, but I've been staying away from there for an eternity, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. (BUT, if the vote goes awry, then I'll stay away again.)(Damn, those books are an addiction.)

[also:]

not supposed to what? 08.Mar.2004 21:36
hold on here

Er, I thought there was NO boycott called against Powell's.

I don't see what good it would have done to stay out of Powell's when The Powell's Workers were NOT asking us to stay out.

It's not like forest defense, where every activist has to imagine what the trees would want if they could talk. Workers CAN talk. Unions TELL us what they want us to do, when they want us to do anything.

But then there's always some holier-than-thou lifestyle freak who's looking for the next thing to shun, even if he knows nothing about the particular struggle except he saw a headline on Indymedia last week.

How's a guy supposed to figure out where he's not supposed to shop in Portland, anyway?

[also:]

also confused 09.Mar.2004 07:35
another book nut

I have also stayed away from Powell's because I thought we were supposed to be supporting the employee struggle there. When I worked at a union job, we often needed support from the customers, but could not ask for it for obvious reasons. I asked some employees early on, and they really couldn't say all that much. So what is the deal? Should we stay away from there? How about other places in the Portland area?

[also:]

Thoughts on the Powell's struggle 09.Mar.2004 10:43
Librophile

So THAT's why I kept seeing the place jammed every time I walked past Powell's during this ordeal. Man, I was so discouraged. I kept thinking people just didn't care. (I almost gave in to my urge to just go in and play with all the books, since no one but me seemed to be paying attention to the workers' struggle. What difference, I thought, could I make if no one else was staying out? Then I realized that was silly. It wasn't just me, it only seemed that way. Besides, doing the right thing doesn't hinge on what other people are doing.)

So it seems that people just didn't understand that they should not be giving their money to a place that is trying to strongarm their workers? That's hard to believe, but good to know. Just to explain, if you know there's a labor dispute going on, it's ALWAYS better to withold your resources from that establishment out of solidarity for the workers. They are constrained in what they can ask for from the public, but even so, Powell's workers made it very clear here and elsewhere that they would appreciate people respecting their struggle and showing them some solidarity.

I've personally stayed out of there for many months, even though it was actually painful to me. I plan to go back now. (I know, this need to BUY something, even books, needs to be dealt with. But...but...I can't help it. At least I'm admitting I have this problem, which is the first step.)

[also:]

looking back 09.Mar.2004 18:50
hrmph

[from another book nut]
>I have also stayed away from Powell's because I thought we were supposed
>to be supporting the employee struggle there.

I thought "emp" made it pretty clear that "support" meant complaining to management, not staying out of the store.

[from emp 28.Sep.2003]
>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!)

[from emp 02.Oct.2003]
>If your are a Powell's customer, please contact upper management to
>show support for its workers.

[from emp 03.Oct.2003]
>Please, continue to email Michael Powell, fill out customer comment
>cards in the store, talk to employees, and show your support.

etc. etc. In November he or she said

[from emp 07.Nov.2003]
>heres what you can do to help.
>
>#1: Sign the Boycott plegde here:  http://www.ilwulocal5.com/index.php
>We're not calling for a boycott NOW, but if we do, give us a way to contact you.

[from emp 18.Nov.2003]
>dude, noone said that your babies couldnt have christmas. What management's
>proposal did say to us is that OUR babies couldnt have christmas. I say, you
>steal from me, I steal from you. Besides, its not like we'll be picketing every
>friggin day. Shop when you can, but don't expect to shop on black friday. ;)

During all this time there were a handful of one-day strikes, during which shoppers were asked to stay home.

Then, in December -- after I arrived in Portland and was specifically looking for credible information to answer the "is it cool to shop at Powell's" question -- I saw this:

[from emp 30.Dec.2003]
>For "Customer: The Public is Aware": our Union hasn't called for a boycott so
>it stands to reason that customers would still be shopping. Our goal is not to
>bring the store to its knees financially because we love our jobs and won't gain
>anything by destroying it. A boycott is an extreme tactic that we want to be very
>careful with as it can be difficult to get the word out to stop boycotting once a
>contract is reached.

Now other people are telling us we just "didn't understand" that we were "supposed to" read between the lines and pre-boycott any union shop where ... um ... where what? In  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/02/45318.shtml, ilwu local 5 said

>We need the community support behind us once again for this contract.

Did that mean everybody was "supposed to" stay away from Powell's since Feb. 2003? Or were we "supposed to" wait until things turned "ugly" Sept. 25? Or until the contract ran out Oct. 2? Or is this very ambiguity just another glorious opportunity for activist one-upmanship?

I think any campaign where you need to have a secret decoder ring to figure out what you're supposed to do is a campaign that the boss is not even going to notice, let alone concede to.