Dear Community Supporter,
After more than six stuck months, contract talks at Powell's Books are starting to inch forward - thanks to escalating displays of determination and concern by workers and community members.
Powell's workers, represented by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5, have donned pins and stickers, passed out leaflets, attended negotiations en masse and walked off the job a half dozen times so far to protest management's unfair labor practices. Community supporters have phoned, written and spoken to managers, and joined by the hundreds in creative and high-spirited rallies marking the Christmas season and Valentines Day.
Your participation has made an enormous difference, and helped break down management's initial stonewalling. We want to thank you profusely - and ask you to help us keep the pressure on until we get a contract we can sign. A few critical issues still separate the union and corporate teams at the table:
Union security: The workers are asking for a "fair share" or union shop clause, which would require everyone represented by the union to pay a fair share. Management wants an "open shop," as found in a right-to-work state. "Open shops" sap unions' strength, as the law requires unions to represent all the people in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay a fair share for representation.
Michael Powell tries to cast this as a free speech issue, and says the idea of a union shop runs counter to his principles. But as a member of the Portland Port Commission, he routinely approves collective bargaining agreements for Port workers that contain union shop provisions.
Wages: Powell's workers want to be able to reach a living wage in a reasonable period of time. Right now the $8.42/ hour median wage for Powell's workers falls more than 20% below the $10.36/hour living wage for a single adult with no dependents. Many workers now starting at Powell's make only $6.50 per hour. Under the corporate team's last proposal, an employee hired day one of the contract could never reach a living wage.
Right now you can do three things to help the more than 400 of us represented by Local 5 at Powell's get a contract:
(1) Sign the boycott pledge list that follows this letter. Let Michael Powell know his stance toward the union will affect his business. He should realize that more anti-union antics will cost him - but lots of people would like to shop at a unionized independent bookstore. Please return the pledge to us by fax at 413.383.6542 or by e-mail at mcann at europa.com.
(2) Call or e-mail Michael Powell, if you haven't yet. Ask him to do the right thing. You can call him at 503.228.4651, ext. 227 (1.800.878.7323) or send e-mail to mikep at burnside.powells.com. Please e-mail copies of your communication to us at mcann at europa.com or fax them to 413.383.6542.
(3) Star your calendar for the week of May 1. Plan to join us in the biggest Powell's actions yet. We will send details closer to the date.
If you have questions, feel free to contact us through the Local 5 office: 503.223.6057.
Thanks again for your stellar support!
POWELL'S BOOKS BOYCOTT PLEDGE LIST
The undersigned pledge to boycott all Powell's Books locations if and when ILWU Local 5 deems it necessary. Along with this pledge, we of Local 5 ask the undersigned to make Powell's their bookstore of choice when ILWU Local 5 wins its first union contract.
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