The owners of a bookstore in New York City’s Upper West Side announced Thursday that they have re-hired four employees, days after they were controversially fired following their votes in a union election.
According to a post on Book Culture’s website, store owners Chris Doeblin and Annie Hedrick stated that they “have re-hired all four store managers who were terminated last week,” adding that “there is no longer a labor dispute.” The announcement marks the end of a turbulent week for the bookstore, which operates two locations near Columbia University.
The employees’ terminations followed a vote by workers at Book Culture to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. Only two of the bookstore’s employees voted not to unionize, but the day after the vote, several of them were abruptly let go, as The Huffington Post reported. A company-wide email from Doeblin confirmed that the employees were fired because of their union votes:
“It was indicated to me … that two people in our management group voted in the union and effectively undermined the interests of the store. The store always being in opposition to the Union. Unfortunately there is no other recourse but to remove these people from our employ effective immediately.”
Doeblin contends that the employees who were fired had recently been promoted to management positions, necessitating that they abstain from union votes, which are intended for rank-and-file workers. While it is illegal to fire a worker for supporting a union, managers are not allowed to join, and are not protected from firings as a result. Bec Goodbourn and Kerry Henderson, two of the employees who were fired, claim that their positions are management “in name only,” and that they do not have any of the authority typically associated with managerial positions. “I have the title of manager but don’t have the same responsibilities as others. I have no power to hire or fire anyone,” Henderson explained.
The terminations led to a strike on Wednesday (July 2), during which current and former employees, as well as union representatives, picketed outside the bookstore. A similar walkout took place in April, when UPS employees in Queens stopped work to protest the firing of a union employee in a dispute over work hours. As The Inquisitr reported, that strike led to 250 UPS employees losing their jobs.
While the four employees who were terminated for supporting the union have been re-hired, a fifth worker who was also fired will not be returning to the store. Casey McNamara, a union organizer, was fired after Doeblin claimed that she eavesdropped on his conversation with another manager, and will be granted a severance package, New York Daily News reports.
According to Doeblin, the bookstore has now recognized the union following the election, and they “are well aligned in urging all customers to shop at Book Culture.”