Half Price Books workers ready to bargain after victory in St. Louis Park

(Photo from MN Bookstore Workers United’s Facebook feed.)

In an election certified yesterday by the National Labor Relations Board, workers at Half Price Books in St. Louis Park won recognition of their union, joining workers at three other Twin Cities locations who voted to organize a month earlier.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663, which supported the organizing drive, said workers in St. Louis Park look forward to bargaining a contract with “livable wages, better working conditions and a seat at the table.”

Minneapolis-based Local 663 and UFCW Local 1189, based in the east metro and Duluth, have partnered on the groundbreaking union drive at the nationwide chain of booksellers. Workers at four of the Twin Cities’ six Half Price books locations, including Coon Rapids, Roseville and St. Paul, have now unionized, the first in the country to do so.

Each Half Price Books shop employs about 15 workers who are eligible to join the union.

Kristin Tamayo, a bookseller at the St. Louis Park store, said it’s exciting to be part of a “movement happening right now with booksellers and other members of the working class across the country.”

“We’re happy we organized a union so we can have protection of our jobs, benefits and equal treatment for all in our workplace,” Tamayo added. “Now we will have a voice at work and a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that directly affect us and our wellbeing.”

Union members at the four stores will seek to bargain their first contracts jointly with Half Price Books. Talks are likely to begin this winter.

Those negotiations, like the organizing work that preceded them, will be led by Half Price Books workers themselves, Local 1189 representative Claire Van den Berghe said.

“From the start this has been a worker-led campaign where the workers call the shots,” she said. “They run their own social media, they make their own decisions, and we intend for bargaining to go the same way. It’s their voice at the table.”

The union drive has energized Half Price Books workers like Hanna Anderson, who works at the St. Paul store. She said that momentum will carry over into contract talks with the company.

“We’re excited to unionize because we’ve been working so hard throughout the pandemic and faced huge challenges – like low staffing levels, on-the-spot training, overwhelming workloads – all while risking COVID exposure every day we go into work.

“Through it all, we’ve stuck together. We all want to continue working at HPB, and it’s exactly because we enjoy working here that we want to unionize and make it a place that we can sustainably stay employed long term.”

Follow Half Price Books workers’ contract campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

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