On the picket line

Independent bookstore workers join union

Workers at Shelf Life Books, an independent bookstore in the Carytown neighborhood of Richmond,Virginia, are committed to providing an alternative to Amazon. After the store changed owners in 2021, the workers began to realize that a union would give them the power to have a voice in the store’s decision-making. With help from organizers at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, Shelf Life has become the first unionized bookstore in the Richmond area.

The workers signed union cards and presented them to the owner. The store has a reputation for supporting workers’ rights in the community and it was refreshing to see that the store management voluntarily recognized the union this year. Next up is securing a contract with language on pay, benefits and terms of employment. Local 400 will support workers during negotiations.

The Maryland-based UFCW local represents 35,000 workers in retail, grocery, food processing and other industries in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee. Shelf Life Books workers took inspiration from their counterparts at Politics and Prose, and Solid State Books, two bookstores in Washington, D.C., where workers unionized and secured contracts.

Athena Palmer, a Shelf Life Books worker, stated: “Indie bookstores can be vulnerable, with the rise of Amazon and dropshipping and everything that takes business away from us. The more voice we have in the store, the more successful it is, and we’ve seen that time and time again. We want the store to be here in 10, 15, 20 years and we felt having a union would lend itself to that success.” (richmondbizsense.com March 20)

If you are in the Richmond area, stop by to congratulate the workers, pet the two cats and buy some books.

SAG-AFTRA wins against Nexstar

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) successfully organized the news anchors, reporters, meteorologists, and other on-air employees at WJET-TV/WFXP-TV in Erie, Pennsylvania. The workers’ bosses at Nexstar, which owns the stations, refused to voluntarily recognize the union. When an election was held March 14, an overwhelming majority of workers voted for union representation.

Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Nexstar Media Group, Inc. is the largest local broadcast television group in the United States. In 1997, Nexstar acquired WJET-TV for $18.5 million.

Now, all three of Erie’s largest newsrooms are unionized. WICU-TV/WSEE-TV on-air employees belong to SAG-AFTRA and Erie Times-News workers belong to the Erie News Guild.

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said:

“WJET employees who provide news and information to the community should be partners in the decision-making process that goes into carrying out that mission. Unionizing gives them the tools they need to make that happen, and we are delighted to welcome them into the ever-growing family of media station employees who have chosen to join SAG-AFTRA.” (Erie Times-News March 14)

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