UWS Barnes & Noble Employees Aim to Unionize

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Employees at the W.82nd Street Barnes & Noble bookstore on Tuesday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union vote, the latest NYC Barnes & Noble to launch an effort to unionize. They are seeking representation with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union (RWDSU). The election could take place as soon as next month.


If successful, the UWS store would join two other NYC Barnes & Noble stores that recently unionized, one in Brooklyn and the other at the flagship store in Manhattan’s Union Square. Nationwide, there are currently just five Barnes & Nobles that have unions but industry insiders say if an active trend toward unionizing among booksellers continues, that number should climb.

Though they filed the petition for a vote, the local employees have simultaneously asked the store’s management to voluntarily recognize the proposed union so that negotiations could begin as soon as possible to address the workers’ concerns. That seems unlikely given that so far, no Barnes & Noble has voluntarily recognized a proposed union despite overwhelming demand from employees, according to a news release from the RWDSU.

Among the staff’s concerns are job security, management favoritism, a lack of structure pertaining to employee responsibilities and adequate pay.

“Our organizing efforts mirror the swell in the labor movement nationwide,” Lauren Champlin, a bookseller at the UWS store, said in the RWDSU release. “I take immense pride in the role we play in our Upper West Side neighborhood and, as a company, in local communities across the country. In organizing, I want Barnes & Noble employees to receive the pay, protection, and respect reflective of the care and specialized skills each of us brings to our role.”

Another local employee, Eve Greenlow, echoed Ms. Champlin’s concerns. “I care a lot about my coworkers. I want the best for them, just as I want the best for myself. We deserve not to have to worry about affording groceries, we deserve safe levels of staffing, we deserve consistent hours, and we deserve agency over our working conditions. I love selling books and am deeply passionate about the work I do. I truly want a future at Barnes & Noble, but this will unfortunately be impossible with the conditions of the present,” Ms. Greenlow said.


Approximately 50 local workers would be covered by the new union, if successful. They include book sellers, baristas, cashiers, maintenance staff and other non-supervisory employees.

A manager at the UWS store, Natalie Garofalo, declined to comment but said she would forward our request for comment to a regional manager to respond.

Having a unionized staff would be the second recent change for the UWS store. Last year, a $4 million interior renovation was completed to give the store a new look and atmosphere; part of the national chain’s overall effort to reinvent itself and its image.


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