These comments were in response to this web page I put up:
These are some of the highlights:
comments: I've enjoyed reading your website, and just want to wish you good luck with everything. I finally left the company, after 3 years. I worked for two stores. The first in the %%%% area, and the 2nd in #####. I have no complaints about the XYZ store, it has always had WONDERFUL managers, who bent over backwards to help out, especially when the payroll was low. But the ABC store was another story. I can basically relate to a lot of the stories I have read here. At this store,I was the children's dept. manager, at a Class A store, making less than $7.00/hour. I also had virtually no help (Yeah, I had "virtual help") in the dept - less than 40 hrs of help per week, except during holiday season, when I'd get another person or two. I was also a cashwrap supervisor, so let me say I at least got my exercise, running back and forth! But it made it even harder to get it all done, especially when payroll was thin, and I'd spend much of the day being a back-up cashier. With basically no support from the management, who basically sat on their butts, gossiping or reading books in the office - "Yes, it IS nice to work in a bookstore and read books all day, Mr./Ms. Customer!" (you know how many think that's what a bookseller's job consists of!). I, too enjoyed my job, overall, but just couldn't take being taken for granted, all the empty promises for help, and the criticism I constantly got when I couldn't get it all done, or (Oh no!) spent time preparing for/running a kids' event - even though it was part of my job! It took me over a month to get the children's relay done, this past summer (90% of my section was changed around). It was my understanding that all the stores were supposed to get extra hours to get the job done - I never saw them! When I left, everyone's review was overdue - some people's by 3-4 months. And everyone was just getting the run-around when they asked about it. So the new holiday hirees are making more money than the booksellers who have been there a year, since the minimum wage increase has increased the starting salary. So I told people to complain to the federal or state labor board, since they were now making less than minimum. The ABC store started at $5.00/hr before the increase. Anyway, I could go on and on - the harassment, blackmailing, and back-stabbing towards me and others, from the management, and so on. My story is really no different than all the others. But it makes me feel better to know that I wasn't the only one. I'm now working at a grunt level at another company, making almost $10/hr. It's not as exciting or interesting, but overall, it's a whole lot better than what I put up with at B&N. I don't hate the company, but it has a lot of improving to do. I just think that they are too obsessed with building stores, and are failing to take care of the current stores, ie pay, low payroll budgets, etc. I did hear recently though, that the company is doing an across the board evaluation of the salaries. I heard this was discussed at the recent west coast regional managers meeting. Anyway, if I'd been willing to stick around, I'd have gladly helped you make waves (at my store). Keep up the great work!!!
comments: I worked at the B&N in XYZ, for two years. I "progressed" from bookseller to fiction supervisor to receiving supervisor, i pretty much saw it all. i come from a very pro-labor family, and quickly became outraged by many of the things i saw happening at our store, and the nationwide chain in general. I therefore attempted to unionize our store with the local SEIU just before the borders' triumphs in chicago and des moines. at the time, i felt alone and afraid, but convinced that i was doing the right thing. unfortunately, it fell apart due to heavy employee turnover just as we were bringing it to a vote. to this day, none of the management knows of the efforts at that store. i would really like to share my experiences-- there are more of us than you would think, and there ARE some pro-union managers who are willing to let things proceed "unnoticed". i'm thrilled to see a web page like this.
...I have been an employee of Barnes & Noble store XXXX in ##### for 2 and a half years. I am twenty years old and am in total agreement of a union. Us booksellers deserve the right to have a group of our own. I was voted in my store most likely to start a union. I wanted to, but knew that there would be some trouble within the store. There are many injustices within the company. I can bet you that Tom Tolworthy can not shelve fiction or even change the magazine draws. My district manager ... can not make an espresso shot in the cafe. She just stands there looking like a barbie doll, she can not even make an announcement over the floor intercom, one time she called "ALL BOOKSELLERS TO THE CASHWRAP," which turned out that she wanted all cashiers to the cashwrap. I work for one of the highest volume stores in the country, and our cafe is number four in the world. The bonuses our managers receive is amazing, but the thing is, it is us booksellers that are doing the work, most of the managers are sitting up in the office taking phone calls. We are out on the floor servicing customers and suggestive selling additional products. I will also tell you a horror story about one of our former managers at store XXXX. Her name is X, she had been with the company for 15 years. We got a new district manager, who is XYZ. Well, XYZ was basically trying to get rid of X because I heard X was making too much money, and X had a lot in the B&N retirement fund. Well, this trick worked, and X had given her two weeks notice. If X would have been in a union, this would have never happened to her. I will also tell you something else, the company is notorious for not promoting employees from inside the store. Instead, they hire someone with a management degree, no bookstore experience whatsoever. Our operations...does not work well with employees, he snaps at us all the time and has no character whatsoever.
Nice Info. My wife used to work for B&N ... But after an employee/manager/supervisor??? put Toilet bowl cleaner in a drink she had stored in the employee break room she's been free of them. The management there has worked hard to cover up and put off any complaints from mere workers. Good luck with your unionizing efforts.
hey right on.
Thanks for your time and effort. I do appreciate it.
comments: You're doing a great job, and keep up the good work. Starting a union is something that should have been done long ago, and I definitely would have joined. I worked for one year at a B.Dalton bookseller (sub of B&N), and experienced much of the same that you mention here. It takes a lot of dedication, energy and commitment to actually do something productive, instead of just sitting around and complaining, and you are to be commended. Excellent work, and good luck.
From what you have said, it seems like B&N employees are doing even better than B Dalton. I realize the stores are, under most circumstances, not comparable in size or volume. But with that goes the fact that B Dalton's have a much smaller employee base and hours to work with. Due to this, I, along with my managing coworkers must know how to do basically everything in the store. I feel that B&N's "little brother's" like B. Dalton should be represented as well, and I hope that they are.
comments: Great page! I'm an Organizer with the Australian Education Union... Your thoughts and the details you provide on your sight provide me with a lot of answers to the actions of business leaders in our country who are doing their damnedest to break Unions like they did in your country. They will not get us though!!!!!!! Keep up the good work.
I just finished reading your website. In a word, phenomenal. I wish you and your fellow workers the best. What I find amazing is that B&N workers tend to be well-educated, motivated, and fond of their job, yet even they fear exercising a fundamental civil right, the right to organize. What about the truly dispossessed? A few random thoughts for you. Anyone can file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB; check the government section of any large city's white pages). You do not need a union or an attorney to do it, and it is a fairly simple process. Being disciplined for wearing a union pin or shirt, having your hours cut after handing out pro-union literature, or being terminated because you tell your boss you're pro-union are all against the law. Anytime it happens, go to the NLRB and file a charge -- for you it is free, because the NLRB does the investigation and the prosecution of the case, but for B&N, it's hundreds or thousands in legal fees. And it isn't only negatives that are against the law. Trying to bribe employees, another classic management tactic, is equally illegal. As for your union activities, the acid test normally is whether I can substitute some other non-union activity for my union activity and not be punished. If no one has ever been disciplined for signing up co-workers for a football pool, for discussing a book read last weekend, or for selling his or her kids' girl scout cookies, then the employer does not have a right to stop you from talking about union issues at that time in that situation. If you can wear a shirt that says "Go Marlins", "I (heart) Puppies", or "I'm with stupid," you can wear one that says "Union Yes!" A change in the policy after organizing starts, or a policy that is enforced only to the detriment of pro-union statements is a violation of federal law and the basis for a charge with the NLRB. Remember too that the law protects "concerted activity", not only pro-union activity. For example, where employees jointly write a letter challenging the unfair treatment of a co-worker, that is protected concerted activity. Another example would be complaints about safety concerns, e.g. under- or unlit parking lots, that two or more employees address with supervisors. If you are penalized for participating in such activities, that too could be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. When in doubt, go the NLRB and file a charge! (for discipline and discharge make sure you allege a section 3 violation). Another key concern is making your pro-union sympathies known to supervisory personnel. A key element of proving anti-union retaliation is showing that someone in charge knew you were pro-union in the first place. The more, the merrier. There is greater safety in numbers and in being up front about your pro-union sympathies than in being a secret supporter. If the employer thinks you're alone, you may be toast, but if going after the union means wiping out the entire staff, you have bargaining strength. In reviewing some of the material posted, I saw a reference or two to "right to work." What that means is that in those states with such laws, if a workplace is unionized, non-members cannot be forced to pay union dues or agency fees. That's all. The right to choose to unionize remains with the worker, not the boss. And if you take a good, close look at many of those so-called right to work laws (does this really mean I have the right to gainful employment?!) you will see that they prohibit discrimination against PRO-union workers too. Next time you come across that phrase, see if the person knows what it truly means, or if they are clueless. Whatever "-ism" people what to call it, I have a view of the world I like to think of as the Disney theory. When you visit Disney, who really affects your perception of the company? Who is more important to your experience as a customer -- the janitor who cleans up the vomit on a hot Florida afternoon, or Michael Eisner? Ole Mike could not show up to work for a month, and I'd never notice. But if that janitor slips up once in his job, then I'd hate to think about what I could end up slipping in. The point is, suits come and suits go, but the ground level worker is the most important asset a company has got, a concept that we seem to have forgotten in this nation. And ironically, workers have forgotten it too. You have more power than you even dream of, if only you and your fellow workers dare to exercise it.
"They call us agitators. Do you know what an agitator is? It's the part of the washing machine that gets the dirt out, and that's what we're doing -- getting the dirt out." - Thurgood Marshall
We have a Border's and a B&N within a couple of blocks of each other. I have a friend at Border's whose been their a few years and she told me this: She couldn't see much possibility of the union making any headway with the workers in her store because pay and conditions are satisfactory and there's a big turnover. The B&N situation was different because their pay is lower, it's not a very good bookstore, and there's some demoralization. Workers move from B&N to Border's, but never the other way around.
We're People Link, a progressive Internet access and content provider and the managers of New World Village. We wanted you to know that we have added your site to the hundreds of progressive sites linked to at the Village. Just go to the Village:
Your support in posting current information about the B&N labor activities have certainly struck a sound chord in our store from my standpoint. I have been cautious about instigating any kind of formal rally. But I continue to inform others at our store about the spreading activities of Labor Unions forming at other stores.
Though I have already left a comment at the bottom of your web page, I have been looking at the rest of your links, and I have to say I am still amazed at how crappy a company B&N must really be! Since I work at a subsidiary, I have always thought that we probably got the rotten end of the stick- little did I realize! Our main fear has been fear of closure more than anything else; now I'm beginning to wonder if we don't have more to worry about...
I am an ex B&N employee. I started out as a lowly bookseller, was promoted to supervisor, and then music department manager.
I left Barnes & Noble twice, and I am hoping that my story will serve as ammunition to prevent anyone else from having to go through B & N hell.
The first time I left B& N was when my Weingarten Labor Act rights were violated. The GM of my store begged me not to press charges, and offered me a promotion and raise to return to B&N. I accepted.
The second time I quit because of sexual harassment. I have not returned since. I advise all employees of B & N to form a union to make sure their rights are not violated.
If any pro-union contacts in the Santa Monica, Ca. store want to contact me, many possibilities for community support exist. Santa Monica is a pro-union city and will do anything legally possible to assist union organizing. Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART), has drawn together a powerful community/political/labor coalition in support of the Hotel & Restaurant workers in our city, and there's room for retail workers too. If my local B&N workers are ready to organize, they should know that community support is ready to assist them.
Please pass this along to anyone interested in organizing in Santa Monica.
comments: wes, I think you really need to explore the aspect of unionizing the whole company, not just barnes and noble inc. you're overlooking the thousands of people employed by b. dalton, scribner's, charlesbank, and doubleday. these people (myself included) get paid way less than comparable to barnes and noble employees. for instance, in wichita, b. dalton starts out their employees at $5.15 an hour! this is ridiculous. because of this wage, we can only hire high school employees. have you ever worked in a store of predominantly high school students? it's like pulling teeth to get them to do anything. once in a while you get really good ones, but those are few and far between. the company justifies this hiring practice by its attitude that as long as they're kids who will work for guatamalan factory worker's wages, they are essentially disposable. shame on them! when this happens, many valued employees leave, realizing that their store has gone by the way side. this is sad and pathetic. ! they constantly refuse time and again to promote hard workers within the company. over 60 percent of management comes from the outside, as in the case of store **** in ####. several people already assistant managers (with experience!) were already capable of filling the new store's position. they instead hired a sporting good's store manager who pronounced nitzche "NIT schkey" and who had never heard of kurt vonnegut. ABSURD! however, the people at store **** (of which i was a former member, until i transferred over to b. dalton) has it better than my store because their starting wage is $5.50. my store can only offer $5.15. we wanted to hire a woman who was making $8.00 an hour (working for the food services!) at 5.25 and had to get district approval! needless to say, our once beautiful store (which is the largest bookstore on the west side of town) is in shambles. we do the highest volume of any b. dalton in our district and are constantly getting s--- on.
NOW! to address the concerns of a sexist atmosphere that rarely promotes women! do you want stories!? I have pleanty o' them! one man in particular which has numerous offenses is $$$$$. $$$$$ is particularly loathed by booksellers everywhere in his district. he does not promote women, and a person who is relatively close to me told me that when he was her district manager (she had been hired by someone else) he only hired attractive women, who were incapable of doing their jobs and consequently were not around in a year or so. gary was my district manager for a year and a half before he ever talked to me other than to introduce himself to me 3 times because he obviously was trying to act like he didn't remember who i was. store management was bad too. i eventually left because being the youngest supervisor (19) and female were two big strikes already against me. if you weren't white, old, and male, your concerns were not taken seriously. these facts about me physically ! were not, however, enough for them to prevent giving me TWO (!) zones in which to supervise over. they gave me the second zone after the previous supervisor left to make more money at best western. that made me have the largest zone in the store with the least employees per square foot under my command. they complained when my carts were backed up to 10! and they refused to schedule people that worked in my zone to come in and shelve. when they did, the person that was working for me was scheduled 3 hrs of main and an hour of info with only a couple of hours to shelve, not to mention interruptions. all this they did to me for giving me what? you guessed it, a quarter raise. i was making the big bucks. $6.75 an hour. they took advantage of me because i was young, they took advantage of me because i was female, and they took advantage of me because i loved my job. i applaud you in your effort to unionize, and i am supporting my counterparts in barnes and noble in my area. i wish I could do more ....
Its time to take back our company!!!! Keep pushin over there we are with you bro!!!
More hours!!!! More Pay!!! I think a Union is just what we need.
Here we go. Slowly the ranks of support at the store are growing. As soon as I visit the union with my two friends on Wednesday, we'll have everything ready.
Good Luck Wes-- Sometimes it seems pretty lonely when you are trying to make a point. Hang in there!
comments: I worked for B&N for over a year and I now work in the mutual fund industry.... In fact, I work exclusively with 401K plans (over 1000). I still have the description of B&N's plan -- it's the lamest in human history. In spite of the fact that B&N is a demonic organization (peopled by execs who don't know who wrote The Catcher in the Rye), I must mention that ALL mutual funds vote their underlying shares. If, indeed, the B&N plan uses a company stock mutual fund (I'm 99.9% certain), individuals don't have to pay disproportionally mammoth transaction fees when they invest each payroll cycle (which would, of course, make employee stock purchase a worthless, money losing endeavor). Unfortunately, the trade-off is that there's no way to vote the underlying shares. In addition, when an employee (if one should survive long enough to get vested) leaves B&N and terminates the 401K plan, even B&N and Fidelity will (unless the plan is really out of control) allow several options: 1) cash out of the plan's company stock fund and move the bucks into one of the other mutual funds (no fee), then leave the monies in the 401K if the individual has more than $5K (ha!) 2)take the stock in certificate form (usually no charge) 3) rollover everything on a dollar basis into an IRA of the participant's choice (another pandora's box, but not one of B&N's making) 4)let the individual take the money out of the tax deferred environment and spend it (likely, for obvious reasons), which would result in truly majestic taxes and penalties. At any rate, the true crime of B&N's 401K is its structure (3-5 funds, forced direction of company match, 5 year cliff vesting -- what a joke), not the use of a company stock fund. If the voting issue is a real big one, you may be better off forming an investment club with some co-workers than putting money into the 401K. Face it -- the tax deduction is ridiculous for anyone in the 15% bracket, and nobody's going to hang for 5 years for a few shares of B&N stock (which may not be such a hot item). Anyway, I'm not missing your point -- the 401K blows, but for different reasons. I've seen literally hundreds of plans and you wouldn't believe how awful yours is. I certainly empathize with you and wish you success. If I could survive by working in a bookstore, I would.
Your site is the Labour Website of the Week -- but you share the honor with another organizing campaign.
Have a look:
I'll be doing some further publicity for your site, and hope that in the next day or two you see an increase in the number of visitors.
Good luck with your efforts.
Keep up the good work. Your website is sorely needed in this world. Now if we could have a couple thousand more, organizing everywhere would be a cinch. Then we could start to see the balance of power change from the few to the many.
I don't think anyone should work for $5.15/hr. There's WAY too much money out there that needs to be REDISTRIBUTED. Why? Because people like us do the work that makes these companies profitable. We have earned it.
Seriously, the web is a great resource to all people who work hard. Information truly is powerful.
I think what you are doing is wonderful . The people of America need unions. There are far too few people who control much of what we think and see, and much of it is only in their interest (money). I believe that most people in this country have too much debt to speak up and voice their opinion about organizing their workplace. I wish it weren't that way. Anyway, you have my support. I think what you have done with your webpage is revolutionary.
Here is the text of a letter sent to to B&N superstore president Tom Tolworthy. The author, Mr. Michael S. Keller wrote and sent this letter prior to viewing this web page.
18 October 1997
PO Box 52302
Tulsa OK 74152-0302
Mr. Thomas A. Tolworthy
Barnes & Noble
120 Fifth Av
New York NY 10011
Dear Mr. Tolworthy:
I see that you're about to open a second store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Let me tell you why I will not shop there.
Two years ago I lived in Oklahoma City. Two years ago Bollinger's Books, on North May Avenue, thrived. Now there are two Barnes & Noble stores virtually flanking the location where Bollinger's once stood. Bollinger's is gone.
When I walk into a Barnes & Noble store, I feel like I am walking into a Wal Mart Super Center. They both have the same cold, uncaring, profit-minded feel. Wal Mart lost something when Sam Walton departed corporeality. You lost something when you expanded from your small-store roots.
You also contribute to a system that punishes authors who arent bestsellers. Those so-called "mid-list" authors who have good stories to tell but not the name recognition of the very biggest get scant (if any) coverage on your shelves and you send the books back for refunds far too soon. This treatment must stop. Give all authors a fair shake. That some are not as profitable as others shouldnt keep them from being seen.
I will not shop at Barnes & Noble. I will continue to frequent locally owned book stores where the people show that they care more about their customers than having a big, profitable store, regardless of how it affects other businesses.
Michael S. Keller
Our B&N wages are incredibly low compared to the cost of living! I know you already know this, but I am sick of the obvious being obvious to all the wrong people.I trying to convince enough employees to bargain with our managers in order to reach an across the board raise. This venture will be without the support of any union. It seems our friends in the legislature have the union boys too afraid to come into the state. My logic is this...If I can get at least a quarter of our best employees to request a raise effective immediately they will either give us the run around or grant us the raise. if they fail to comply with our request then we will leave the company. Christmas time is a great time for anyone in retail. Jobs are everywhere and paying more then B&N! Also, our store cannot compete with any job opportunities in the metroplex: wendys pays 8.50 starting!! Home depot pays 9.00 starting comp USA pays 8.50 starting Gardenridge pays 9.00 starting any job in the mall pays 6.50 starting on average BARNES&NOBLE pays 5.25 starting!! these other jobs are basic retail jobs consisting of basic retail selling and basic knowledge of one dept. As you know B&N employees are responsible for knowing almost all depts. within the store as well as having a detailed knowledge of everything from business to psychology to fiction/lit!! Our store has to hire highschool freshmens and up to work because no one else will take this low paying job! With the many incompetent employees being hired by management we (the employees who have been to college) have to take the slack and work harder! Just recently our customer order person quit so management,instead of hiring anyone new, gave the job to our cash wrap sup. The way I look at it they will have no choice but to give us the raise. If they don't we will all be making more money doing less work for another company!!
Thanks for answering me back, and for putting me on your distribution list. It's incredibly good to see another workplace without a union tradition entering the world of organized labor. It's like you say, the future is beginning to look brighter.
I don't know if I mentioned to you yet that we got a second meeting with our regional director last week. We're all getting raises and the starting salary at our store is being increased. We were heard "Loud and Clear" that pay was an issue that needed to be addressed. Love those little catch phrases, don't you? "Raised your hands" and "Loud and clear".
Not unexpected that they would try to buy you off but the amount of the increase is pretty surprising...[it seems] clear the union, not the company, achieved this. (although new employees still won't be making what borders workers with contracts will likely be making). By the way, the website looks good.
I had the pleasure to meet for about an hour with my DM, ... to talk about my concerns with Barnes & Noble! [They] put it to me this way...If I keep my mouth shut I will have a raise, and a promotion in the next couple of months. [They were] not that direct about everything, but that was what [they] meant. Also, [they] said the whole store would receive a raise by January (about 75 cents).
We just had our Regional Director stop in again (first was a couple of weeks ago), and boy was I ready and waiting. I had the e-mail you sent me about how Michelle, from the Human Resources Dept, stopped by to tell you that they've re-evaluated your market and everyone was getting raises. First thing he announced was that our market had been re-evaluated, and we would be getting raises and a higher starting pay, with more news next week.
One of the supervisors at our store calculated the other day that working 40 hours a week as a supervisor, she is eligible for food stamps. I like my job. I like my manager. I really love the people I work with. I am really pissed off and encouraged after looking at your web page, though.
Excellent page. I have been working the past few months at B&N store $$$ in ****. I just left them last week to go to work at the local borders (better pay than B&N could provide right now), but still not great), and I've been very interested in all the union activities going on ....although most of it seems to be going on with Border's stores. You page has lots of good info & observations. I like it. As yet, nothing is going on insofar as my former B&N store or my present Borders...just a lot of people who are happy with what they do and have a fatalistic attitude towards how well they'll ever be paid for it...the feeling is "this is a good environment, I like doing this job, but the pay isn't as good as what it should be") Anyway, it's a good thing you're doing with your web page...I've been thinking of doing something along the lines of a web page for the past few weeks, something that would address issues for booksellers in all types of stores...for example,! the big independent here in ****, Book People...is a wonderful place to shop....but not many people I know of who want to work in books want to work there...sure, it's local, but it pays even less than Borders or Barnes & Noble (local starting wages are B&N:$5.50, Borders:$6.00, and Book People:$4.75). So, I've been thinking about it for a while and I've found you page very informative. Thanks,
You have done a fantastic job on exposing chain bookstores for what they are. Great job! ...it just expresses how I feel--so I completely support unionizing and fighting outside its walls from an independent bookstore perspective. On Z magazines Left On Line in the Katha Pollitt forum is a discussion on Barnes & Nobles and various related issues...check it out! Once again great job! Thanks and take care!
Work hard and smart and you'll be taken care of...no matter what company...because there aren't enough people who give a damn about their jobs.
If you think the retail stores policies are bad, try working on the college division level. Here at University at Albany Bookstore employees start out at minimum wage...when I started there, $4.25 an hour. After getting screwed out of my performance review, which is common practice there, I had to get laid off and rehired to get a pay increase. The biggest raise I ever got there was when minimum wage was increased. But the kicker is, after putting in nearly 2 years with the bookstore, and being promoted twice, due to "financial difficulties" my hours were slashed to nearly half what I had been working as a full time employee. Personally I still believe that the reasoning was my benefits were due to kick in, and they were unwilling to give them to me. I had been working 4 months at $6.50 an hour as an inventory control specialist, 40 hours a week. When I complained, I was threatened by the manager with my job. I called the company ombudsman (which isn't confidential btw, they ask for your name more than once). Needless to say, the district manager saw nothing wrong with their techniques. I didn't take kindly to being threatened and left my position. However, my call to the management in NY got me one thing, a black mark on my resume...I haven't been able to get gainful employment in 5 months. Thank you B&N. I hope you unionize the both divisions...more power to you.
New Cambodian Barnes & Noble
check it at http://www.theonion.com/onion3205/cambodianbook.html
This page is great, Barnes & Noble is an evil company. Yesterday was my last day at Barnes & Noble & I'm glad it was. I first started out in Software ETC, inside B&N when the store first opened two years ago. After Neostar had it's problems, they closed it & I transferred over to B&N (for $5.25). In that two years I moved up to a supervisor (for $6.25) & have been there for about a year. Everything was going smooth till about 4 months ago. We hardly had any turnover, & promoted within the store. Then the manager got fired for no reason. He happened to be a friend of mine, so I was a bit angry. The day he left they posted the name of the new manager, & said our old manager left because "He was pursuing other interests" which was a lie & everyone knew it. This is a long story but I'm going to make is short. After the manager left Me, a Assistant Manager, & the fourth key all put in our two weeks. We all left to better companies & were all making more money. After they fired the manager & we all put our notices in they raised the pay of bookseller to around $5.60 & Supervisors to $7.25. We were offered overtime, to get things done, & told we magically had more hours to work with. There is a lot more to this but I don't want to get anyone else in trouble. There were other stories about this type of stuff in surrounding stores.
comments: Your web page is very impressive. I am a former manager of Barnes & Noble. We did not have a contract as per your page. Our employment was based on the same handbook that you have on hand. I was fired, because the RM & DM were fearful of me and four other managers. In total 5 of Us were let go for the same vague reasons(Even though We operated the top stores in our region.) Several factors led to our demise.1)Pay, Since we operated the top stores We were paid a little more, this hurts bottom line 2)We were pro-Union. We all felt that our employees were being screwed. We fought to have more hours and higher pay! bad move on our part. The thing is that managers have no control over a lot of issues,however, We are expendable commodities to the DMs and RMs, to show that they care. In my case they blamed me to the staff. I was one step ahead, however, I showed the staff everything. They know that my situation was for show. My former store would be as easy as pie to unionize. If you would like more info let me know. I would be interested in hearing more about Tom Tollworthy's visit.
comments: The is an incredible site. My only suggestion is that you might make the information you've provided a little easier to navigate. I feel bad saying anything negative though. It's obvious the amount of time and research you've put into this. As a case of why and how service employees should unionize I've never seen the case stated better.
comments: I am a journalist working on a book about resistance to corporate rule. I have been covering the rise in service-sector unions for several years and would very much like to talk to you. How can I contact you? ...Thanks.
comments: Letter #1
Thanks for all the great info. I attempted to distribute this document on my lunch at work and was pulled immediately into the managers office and told that I was not allowed to distribute union documentation at work in fear of employee debate. Afterwards I distributed the document after work to most of the employees. Thanks for all the info. and please keep me updated on any changes that take place.
comments: Letter #2 same person
When I was told to remove your web page from the breakroom I went to all of our employees and provided them with a copy and told them that our managers have banned it from the store! This has created quite an outrage among most of the staff! It will end up being a bad move, politically speaking, for our managers....At our store, #****, employees who speak their mind suddenly quit unannounced...they get fired very quietly! I am sure it is that way everywhere. I guess this is going to ruin my chances for a keyholder promotion! Legality has escaped our store as it has many others.
Gore Vows Sanctions for Firms Resisting Unions
By Peter Szekely
PITTSBURGH (Reuter September 22,1997) - Declaring that workers' organizing rights are not adequately protected, Vice President Al Gore says the administration plans to deny federal business to firms that interfere in union elections. Speaking to a group of union activists at an organizing conference before the AFL-CIO's biennial convention opens here on Monday, Gore called organized labor an important component in the checks and balances of the workplace.
"We want to do more to level the playing field itself to restore those checks and balances," Gore said.
"We want to make sure that companies that bust unions don't get or keep federal contracts," he said. "We're working very closely with your leadership on this and I'm confident we'll make it a reality very soon." Gore did not say if the proposed measure would be in the form of a change in government procurement regulations or a presidential order. Last year, a federal appeals court struck down President Clinton's order to deny federal business to companies that replace their striking workers. Last February, Gore pledged to the policy-making executive council of the 78-union AFL-CIO that companies that violated U.S. labor law would be denied government contracts. But the administration has yet to launch such an initiative. Claiming that one in 20 union supporters are illegally fired during organizing drives, Gore said most Americans would be outraged if they knew of the tactics used by some employers to prevent workers from voting in union elections.
"They use every trick in the book," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, that is wrong."
"You can count on President Clinton and me to keep insisting that there's simply no place for employers inside union elections," he added.
Union support would be essential for Gore in the push he is widely expected to make for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, especially since one of his opponents is likely to be House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who has always had strong backing from labor. Gore referred only indirectly to labor's opposition to the administration's proposal for so-called "fast track" legislation that would prevent Congress from modifying any newly negotiated trade treaties with other countries. "Of course, we haven't agreed on every single issue and we had discussions earlier today about every single issue," he said, referring to his private session with the executive council. "But we've agreed on about 99 percent of them and we've never let our occasional disagreements get in the way or our common cause." Clinton is scheduled to address to the labor federation convention on Wednesday.
As a member of the Local chapter of the Teamsters, your interest in forming a union caught my eye. Here are some comments about what you've written...
For what it's worth, many people who have been terminated "at will" have been challenging said terminations in court. More and more terminated employees are winning these court cases.
Favoritism will still exist to a degree in a union shop. A union contract will list various dos and don'ts and punishments for the violation of company rules, as most employee handbooks do. However, if you are a good employee, aren't late for work, have a good attitude, etc., bosses are still likely to "let it go" if you mess up. An employee without all that good stuff may not get any breaks. Let me also point out that some bosses are complete a**holes and will follow the contract more closely (like it's the Bible or something) when dealing with an employee that he doesn't like.
The problem that exists is, if all your 'good' co-workers get some slack when it comes to certain parts of the contract and a 'not-so-good' employee doesn't, someone will be pissed. Oh yeah, this applies even to good workers that the boss "just doesn't like." It's hard to say "Joe Blow is getting punished for this, although none of the rest of us did" when he *is* in violation of the contract (broke a rule or something). In other words, employers can be selective (to a degree) when following the contract can actually hurt the employee. I've broken a few rules (nothing major) and just got bitched at when they had every right to write me up. For the most part, though, employers are pretty lax when it comes to punishing.
Increasing the pay for employees pisses off the big boys like nothing else. They'll tell you that for you to get a $.50/hr raise per year would kill the economy, spread disease, end the world as we know it, etc. I don't know why, but a guy who makes a few hundred thousand bucks a year usually acts insulted when the piss-ants ask for a small raise. I guess the thought of not being able to afford the gold trim on the Rolls-Royce is scary when you are a status-seeking bigwig.
Give a man a position of power, and he may very well abuse it. As much as I hate to admit it, there are union officials who are as corrupt as corrupt can get. In our Teamster magazine, there is always a listing of who got busted doing something that they shouldn't have done...Most infractions pertain to the misuse of money.
There is also the union steward. He's the guy you work with whom you elect to be the union "head" at your place of employment (for the record, there is no pay for this title). He's the guy you talk to about possible contract violations, filing grievances, etc. Be careful when voting for your steward. Some are great, some suck. Our steward does a good job. Also, you have the right to have your steward present during any grievance hearing or disciplinary session/hearing/I can't think of a good way to describe it. He is, more or less, your "lawyer" in these cases.
Your bad stewards don't care, are no help, don't really fight for you, are really on the side of mgmt, any of the above, any combo of the above, and/or all of the above. A word of warning: A power-hungry asshole boss will (it is written in stone) hate a good union steward. A bastard boss wants to rule with an iron fist, and as far as he's concerned, his word is law, right or wrong. He'll also study the contract (all bosses should know it and understand it anyway) and look for loopholes in order to "bust" employees, especially the steward.
It's also important to keep the broad and vague language to a minimum. I'll give you an example of how that affected me recently. Our GM wanted me to run some clothes (I work in the uniform service/delivery biz) to a Monday customer on a Friday. No prob, it would only put me 15 minutes behind. Well, by the end of the day, I forgot. He wasn't around for me to tell him this when I got back in. Oh yeah, the customer had no idea that we were gonna drop them off a day early. Anyway, the GM is out of town for a week. The next Friday, he's back, and tells me to see X (service mgr and my immediate boss) before I leave. I go in, and Jay and our steward are shooting the breeze. I tell him that GM sent me, and he says, "Yeah. you can stay in here too." I knew something was up. The GM had called up X every day that he was out of town telling X to write me up. X said he was just hoping the GM would forget about it.
To further illustrate my point, X said "I don't even know what section [of the contract] to write you up under. This is the dumbest shit I've ever had to do." He put it under "shoddy workmanship." I was pissed, as was the steward. X told us to file a grievance (even though he's mgmt and ain't supposed to be on our side).
The next Monday, I had a talk with the GM. I said that something that I just plain forgot isn't "shoddy workmanship." He then gives me some line of shit about how X wrote me up, not him. It's apparent that he didn't know that X told me that he (GM) told X to write me up. He also tells me that it's very disrespectful to disobey a direct order and forgot and blah blah blah. His tactic is to waste as much of your time by rambling on and when he's done, well, then the meeting's over. I did the same to him. He had plenty to do, and when he was done bitching, he was ready for me to leave. But I kept on with my shit. Finally he said "We'll meet with X and see about amending it," which means retracting the write up.
It also needs to be known that the GM can tell the other mgrs what to do and fire them if they don't do it. Although X didn't want to write me up, it was an order from the GM. And the GM would more-or-less decide if there would be a retraction. The steward spread the word that I would take it to arbitration (more on that in a second). It was retracted.
The three steps our union has in its grievance process are (roughly): 1. You and your steward (if you choose) meet with the person who wrote you up and discuss it. If that doesn't work, then
2. Some official from your local union, you, and your steward meet with the person who wrote you up and any other members of mgmt who wish to attend. Many grievances are settled here. Your official is someone who is a brash, foul-mouthed sonofab**** who is as big of an asshole (if you are lucky) as your asshole boss. Your boss HATES him. He can say whatever he wants to without any fear of losing his job, since he doesn't work for your company. He's a heavy-hitter who comes out with both guns firing. If that still doesn't work, then
3. Arbitration. Your company and your union split the cost of bringing in an arbitrator (a third party). He is more or less a "judge," and his word is final. Usually, step two will take care of everything if you let them know that you'll go to arbitration. It costs your company a lot of money to bring in an arbitrator, and they aren't going to waste it on some lame, petty "violation." While you may have violated the contract in some lame, harmless way, some mgrs will say that (due to the vague wording of some contracts) you messed up, although you didn't violate the "spirit" of the rule. Trust me, no company will spend all that cash over something that irrelevant and insignificant.
If you are suspended, grieve, and win, your company must give you back pay for the days that you were suspended. If you are fired, grieve, and win, then you get your job back plus the pay that you missed from your fire date to your rehire date, and you get to keep your seniority rank.
It's also a good idea to have something about seniority pay in your contract. I've been with my company for two years. I think that the guys who've been there for 10 years deserve a little more pay than me.
Try to limit the "if agreeable by the company" phrases. Most of the time, "it" isn't. Use them only when discussing very important points. Limit the instances when the company will have the final word, especially if it's something that's fair to the employee and is in the best interest of the employee. Sometimes a boss will disagree on a petty point just to be a ++++head.
I apologize for the length of this letter, but I just wanted to put my two cents into the pot. I also don't want you (if you do attempt to help organize a union) to make any mistakes that could screw you in the future. If your fellow workers vote in a bad contract, you are screwed. Attention to detail is a must!!!!!! As I said earlier, some bosses will go over the contract with a fine-toothed comb looking for loopholes in order to "get" someone.
I wish you the best of luck in organizing a union.
comments: Hello. Very interesting information. Do you know how I could directly reach Leonard Riggio? Thank you.
Thanks for the info & good luck. I've been a book-seller for 2 years and grow more disenchanted with "the company" daily. I see daily #s rocketing from last year's #s, but no one here is seeing the benefit of the work required to increase sales. Turn over is unbelievable... but before I start ranting, I just want to wish you luck. Keep the page updated and I will let co-workers know about it.
Just filling you in on the current events at my store, which are dragging along VERY slowly due to the pro-employer laws of my state, which allow them to fire at no expense or fear of being sued. Anyway, more and more malcontents are making themselves known to each other, and I'm always there to spread the word of the underground revolution waiting in the wings. Most of them are receptive to the points that have been made, but I'm afraid that the weak links in the chain would not support the cause. They are the classic example of people who are all talk up until the time when action is needed. Then they go running around ratting out all the supporters.
Most people unfortunately don't understand that for the quality of work my company receives, they don't compensate the employees in return. We've recently lost 4 employees in our cafe. Instead of hire new people, they are placing booksellers there to fill in the holes. In addition to that, two employees have been promoted to managerial spots and are expected maintain their original duties as well. Thus saving even more money, so that we can utilize it better to crush more Mom&Pop stores in the near future.
It should be noted that last week, the CEO of Barnes & Noble was in Washington trying to fight the "monopoly" label that was in question recently. I never heard anything else... As you can see, this goes beyond union issues for me, yet, my individual goals definitely require union assistance. That includes further correspondence with you folks, and a little prodding ... as well. Sorry to talk you peoples' ears off about my self-centered nonsense, but stay focused! UNITE!!!!!!
I am an hourly paid CRC in a smaller volume store. My current hourly rate is $6 hour! You know that means I recently received a "pay cut" as minimum wage went to 5.15. Your information was very informative.
We're planning on having our first real sitdown... meeting with the union rep. We've got about 10 people that should be able to make it. These are just the folks who seem to be willing to take a little time to get everything started.
Hello. I found your page very interesting, as conditions at store #$$$$ in ****** are even worse than what you describe.
To begin, we only make $5.35/hr starting wage. Raises are not given on a timely manner, and there is nothing stating what "timely" is. Employees hired in from Borders or other retail stores are made managers or supervisors in a manner of a few weeks. Dozens of people have quite since the latest general manager was hired nearly directly from Borders. People are being reprimanded for questionably legal, obscure, or unfair reasons. Employees, supervisors, and assistant managers alike have reported feeling harassed or ignored at some point in time by the new management. Many have quit in disgust and written complaint letters to upper management but with no change. We have had a rash of people quitting or being fired and, currently, we are running at about 85-90% new staff. All of the newest supervisors/manangers are either transfers from other B&N's/Bookstars or from other retail chains.
I have worked here a year and 1 month and have not gotten a review. A fellow employee has worked there for 1 year and 5 months and still not had a review. We were both passed over for promotion in favor of outside hires. (Some from the same Boorders store that the new manager came from.)
The entire staff is miserable. Everybody is looking behind their backs feeling they are being spied upon (something that has happened a lot). While I disagreed with unions in the past, I have come to realize that our only hope for improvement in our working conditions is to unionize. I have worked for many different companies, ...even Carl's Jr.--and this current management is the worst I've ever seen. Something has got to be done.
Greetings...just scanned your B&N page...as an employee I have been annoyed at the wages offered to booksellers. I ponder how folks who have families can exist while employed there. Being quite outspoken and living daily in disgust at the hypocrisy so widespread, I back this drive for union fully. My stay at B&N will be short in that it is a job simply to allow some $$ during my graduate studies. There is absolutely no suitable (or rational) explanation why B&N cannot treat its employees to some of that cake ... Cheers
Thank you for providing me w/ this current information and opportunity to consider my options. I feel sure that if you have a firm understanding of your goal that you be successful at bring a change that is much needed for all who work for and w/ the B&N Corp.
Posted the items about the pay raises and it was mysteriously taken down when I went back an hour later. I placed another one the following day that many were able to see.
Out of the blue:
Belonging to a women's stock club, I began looking into B&N as a possible stock investment after reading some information in ValueLine. Researching on the internet, I came across your home page. But after reading through your information I don't think it is the right time to invest in B&N... I do agree from your information that the B&N employees seem to need a union to watch out for employee needs. Happy employees are productive employees. If wages and benefits are low, turnover will increase. Although I can't imagine B&N employees working at B&N as a career, they should at least earn a decent wage w/ benefits because customers of B&N appreciate knowledgeable booksellers. If a wages are not high, then the company should be able to offer stock options and decent purchase plans to encourage employees to stay.
So much for my thoughts-- I will continue to watch the price of the stock over the next month/months-- and it will be interesting to see if ValueLine reports on your attempts to organize.
Good Luck! ____________________________________________________
Just a few examples.
Waiting for permission to fill in the blanks... :)
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