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Indie Bookstore Rehires Workers It Fired For Supporting The Union

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Protesters outside Book Culture on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy RWDSU)
Protesters outside Book Culture on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy RWDSU)

The owners of an independent bookstore in New York City have rehired four workers who were fired shortly after they voted in favor of union representation.

As HuffPost reported Wednesday, the Morningside Heights shop Book Culture recently canned a group of workers who had backed an organizing drive by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union won an election with near-unanimous support from store employees on June 24. Five workers were soon let go, and a Book Culture co-owner explained in a staff email that at least two were fired due to their union support.

Firing an employee for voting in favor of union representation is illegal under federal labor law. But the workers who were let go had been deemed managers by the ownership. Because managers aren't eligible to be part of the union, they aren't protected from such a firing. Chris Doeblin, a Book Culture co-owner, told HuffPost that he had promoted them to managers and that "we ask that all of our managers support management and fulfill the directives that they are given."

The workers in question, however, contended that they were managers "in name only." The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint on their behalf, demanding they be reinstated.

In a statement posted to the Book Culture website on Thursday, Doeblin and his partner, Annie Hedrick, said that the spat was over and the workers would soon be clocking in again. A fifth fired worker had accepted a severance package in lieu of reinstatement, according to the Columbia Spectator.

"We have re-hired all four store managers who were terminated last week," the Book Culture statement read. "There is no longer a labor dispute. Book Culture has now recognized the RWDSU as the union representing our employees. We are respectful of the rights of our employees to unionize and of the views of our customers in the community and [nearby Columbia University]."

Book Culture employees took part in a strike on Wednesday, holding up signs demanding that the fired be rehired.

In their statement, Doeblin and Hedrick said they looked forward to working with the union.

"As we have gotten to know the RWDSU this past week we believe that we and the RWDSU are well aligned in urging all customers to shop at Book Culture to support your local independent book store and to support the unionized employees who depend on your patronage of the two stores," they said.

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