Barnes & Noble Flagship Store in Union Square Overwhelmingly Votes to Join Union

June 9, 2023 : Workers at Barnes & Noble’s flagship store in Union Square, Manhattan, have voted overwhelmingly to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This victory follows recent successful unionization efforts by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers at Rutgers University and several independent bookstores in New York City. The employees at the Union Square store have been facing ongoing safety issues, including workplace harassment, inadequate pay compared to independent booksellers, unstable scheduling practices, lack of job structure, and management favoritism. These issues will be addressed in their upcoming contract negotiations.

The workers were satisfied with the unionization, emphasizing their dedication to improving the store and creating a better workplace. They are eager to advocate for fair wages and employment safety, especially in the cafe department, where baristas feel undervalued compared to booksellers. The workers believe that Barnes & Noble has not prioritized humane wages and employment safety from the beginning of their employment and that joining a union will provide financial security, a safer work environment, and the respect they deserve.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU, praised the Barnes & Noble workers for setting an example of change in the industry and expressed pride in welcoming the Union Square store into the union. The vote to unionize was conducted through an in-person secret ballot overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the RWDSU will represent over 100 workers in contract negotiations.

The workers cited safety as a major concern, given the store’s location in the bustling Union Square area of New York City. They expressed a need for conflict resolution training, safety protocols, and equipment to handle their challenges. The store also suffers from understaffing, requiring cross-training to adequately cover various work areas. The workers believe that a union contract will provide the necessary resources and compensation to attract more coworkers and enhance the shopping experience for customers.

In addition to the Barnes & Noble workers, employees at GrowNYC, an environmental sustainability organization, are also seeking to unionize. They are concerned about fair compensation for their emotional and physical labor, enduring hazardous weather conditions, and facing harassment. Education workers at GrowNYC are particularly burdened by their high workload and the limited time they have to make a lasting impact on the schools they serve. They believe unionizing is crucial to lasting change and ensuring fair treatment for all workers.

These unionization efforts reflect a growing demand for fair treatment, improved working conditions, and better compensation in both the retail and environmental sectors.