By Dusty Christensen
HADLEY — Workers at Barnes & Noble in Hadley, Massachusetts, voted unanimously Thursday to form a union, making the store the second of the book retailer’s approximately 600 locations to unionize.
In a federally administered election, the store’s booksellers and baristas voted 11-0 to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459, according to UFCW organizer Drew Weisse. Local 1459 will represent around 18 employees at the Hadley location. The workers will now begin the process of bargaining a first contract with Barnes & Noble.
“I’m so very thrilled for my coworkers,” barista Izzy Farrick told The Shoestring.
The union’s victory comes nearly two weeks after some 70 workers at Barnes & Noble College Booksellers at Rutgers University unanimously voted in favor of unionizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Late last month, workers at the chain’s flagship store in New York City’s Union Square filed for a union election with RWDSU as well. That election is scheduled for June 7.
Leading up to their election, the Hadley Barnes & Noble Union held a rally on Wednesday together with around 50 local labor leaders and other allies.
“Barnes & Noble has always preached about what valuable assets us booksellers and baristas are, but actions speak louder than words,” Farrick said to those gathered along the busy Route 9, her voice amplified by a bullhorn as supporters honked their horns while driving by. “We have been underpaid, understaffed, underappreciated, and overworked. Myself and my coworkers have had enough and we’re here to finally do something about it.”
The group organized the rally right in front of Trader Joe’s, where workers won the first-ever union in the grocery chain’s history. That victory sparked a movement of other Trader Joe’s workers across the country organizing with the independent Trader Joe’s United union that began in Hadley. To date, Trader Joe’s employees in Minneapolis, MN, Louisville, KY, and Oakland, CA, have also voted to join the union.
Speaking at the rally Wednesday, Jamie Edwards — the president of Trader Joe’s United and a crew member at the Hadley store — said that unions are not just about fighting income inequality, but that they’re also part of the bigger struggles for racial and gender justice.
“When we come together as a whole we know that workers have the power,” Edwards said.
Farrick said that part-time Barnes & Noble workers in Hadley are still making minimum wage despite working with the company for years. She said the union members want to afford the increasing price of rents locally and to be in charge of their own scheduling.
“We want the chance at promotions without having to jump through hoops and play corporate games,” she said. “We want to be paid for the extra responsibilities that we’re asked to take on.”
Speaking to The Shoestring after the vote, Farrick said she thinks the union’s victory on Thursday can be a spark not just for other Barnes & Noble workers but also for those working at other retail locations in western Massachusetts.
“This could be you,” she said to other workers considering organizing. “You could be winning your union election, you just got to do it.”
Dusty Christensen is an independent investigative reporter based in western Massachusetts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dustyc123.
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