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Powell’s Books workers to strike on Labor Day

The union representing employees of Portland-based Powell’s Books stated it will stage a one-day strike on Labor Day, following months of contract negotiations.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 5, which represents the workers, has been deadlocked with the company’s management since February, arguing for a higher starting wage of $21.85 an hour. This is largely in response to a proposed change to the company’s healthcare plan, which incurs higher out-of-pocket costs for employees – and a starting wage of $16.25 an hour.

ILWU Local 5 represents over 300 Powell’s Books workers, who voted to authorize the strike earlier this month with a vote of 92 percent in favor. 

“The ILWU Local 5 bargaining team has asked the Powell’s team to return to the table and continue negotiations for a fair contract that meets workers’ needs and reflects their contributions to the company’s success,” the union wrote on Facebook. “While we hope the Company will accept that invitation and bargain in good faith, this vote signals that Powell’s workers are prepared to respond accordingly if they don’t.”

Instead of walking off the job, workers will picket outside of Powell’s three book stores and hold a rally outside the Burnside location at 1 p.m. the same day. The union also asks customers not to shop online or in-store on Labor Day, though it has yet to call for boycotting the store entirely.

“If that ever changes, we’ll be really loud about it,” the union wrote in the original Facebook post.

Powell’s Books has existed since 1971, and claims to be the world’s largest independent bookseller. Its workers have been unionized and represented by ILWU Local 5 for over twenty years.

(Photo courtesy of Powell’s Books | CC BY 3.0)


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