Just in time for Independent Bookstore Day (April 29) and May Day (May 1), workers at Copperfield’s Books Petaluma voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing last week.
In a social media post following the Friday, April 28 vote, the Copperfield’s Books Petaluma Union stated, “Needless to say, we are ecstatic about the outcome of this election. We’re all so proud of the effort and hard work we’ve put in, but there’s still much to be done.”
The election came a month and a half after workers first announced their intention to join the Bay Area chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In early March, several workers from the Petaluma store hand delivered a letter to the company’s headquarters in Sebastopol requesting immediate, voluntary recognition of the union. Management denied the request, opting for an official election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) instead.
As previously reported by the Bohemian, pro-union workers referenced low pay, inadequate healthcare benefits and a lack of clarity on how to respond to discrimination by customers as issues they hope to address.
A statement released by Copperfield’s days before the election reads in part, “While we respect our Petaluma employees’ right to unionize, we strongly believe that the company will be just as good a place to work without the need for a union. We believe that management has continuously demonstrated care for our employees, and we think creating a division between Management and Booksellers may be detrimental to our team.”
When the ballots were counted, workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the union by a margin of 13-2. As of the Bohemian’s Monday print deadline, the NLRB had not officially signed off on the vote but, Paul Jaffe, Copperfield’s Books president, said in a statement that the company would not contest the result.
“We are satisfied with the election results, and the NLRB seems to have done a very good job handling the mechanics of the election. We have always said we would honor the decisions of the employees, and we have no known reason to challenge the results,” Jaffe wrote on Sunday.
With the election done, the two sides will head into bargaining to figure out the details and ultimately agree on a contract.
First up is determining who is eligible to join the union. Copperfield’s management has contested whether three workers can be part of the union. They contend that those employees, two assistant managers and a senior bookseller, are ineligible for union membership due to their work duties. The union argues they should be eligible. The three contested employees all voted in favor of the union on Friday, but their votes would only be counted if the vote had been close enough to require a tie-breaker.
There is also some healing to be done. Both sides acknowledged that some hard feelings developed during the short election campaign.
The election makes Copperfield’s Petaluma store the latest independent bookstore to unionize over the past few years as part of a nationwide upsurge of labor organizing.
Copperfield’s currently has nine stores spread across Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. The union vote only applies to the Petaluma location.