Should You Boycott Book Culture?

Written by

tbh I was on my way to nussbaum for a bagel, i wasn't looking for this story

I’ve heard Bank Street Bookstore is pretty nice…

Labor-dispute Lover Maud Rozee spoke to the two sides involved in Book Culture’s recent union-related struggles.

On June 26th, Gothamist reported that five of Book Cultures thirty employees claim they were fired because they voted to unionize, and that the vote was marred by unfair tactics by the owners. Today, those employees, as well as their union representative, are distributing flyers calling for a boycott outside Book Culture’s Broadway location.

Book Culture’s owners claim that four of the employees fired because they voted to unionize even though they were classified by Book Culture as managers. The National Labor Relations Board forbids supervisors (or managers) to align themselves with a union, as it would be a conflict of interest. Chris Doeblin, one of Book Culture’s owners, claims the fifth employee was fired over an incident which was “totally unacceptable in the workplace.”

Casey McNamara was one of the employees fired from her position hours after the vote. According to McNamara and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the majority of Book Culture’s managers do not fall under the NLRB’s definition of “supervisor.” McNamara claims that the “managers” didn’t have the abilities to hire, fire, or discipline employees. The union believes that around half of Book Culture’s employees are classified as managers purely as a way for the ownership to decrease the size of the bargaining unit and create divisions within the staff. The NWDSU has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against Doeblin because of the firings.

Chris Doeblin, one of Book Culture’s two owners, says that Book Culture’s managers all accepted their position as “managers,” and understood that they would be paid a higher wage and have new responsibilities, including making judgements about discipline and promotions. Although the results of election are not yet certified, Doeblin says that the owners have no problem recognizing or negotiating with a union at Book Culture. According to Doeblin, Book Culture has an issue only with employees who have a managerial role aligning themselves with the union, which he views as a violation of labor law.

Doeblin thinks the boycott is “shameful”:

There are all kinds of injustice all over this city… There are a lot of better labor fights that require some real fight. Having stood on this block, having raised my family here for 30 years, it’s a shame that people can so quickly defame not only the store, but the owners of the stores and our families. We would never do anything but comport ourselves in a way which is supportive of our community… These people are mistakenly led to have chosen to organize this store, with its six employees, instead of going out to find some real place where there’s some real injustice.

Despite the boycott, McNamara has no desire to see Book Culture go out of business, or change ownership. “This is not an attack on the business. We’re here because we’re committed to selling books, and we love the customers. To claim that we’re undermining the business is, to me, absurd. I wouldn’t be putting myself through this if I didn’t care about the business. I could get another job tomorrow.” The fired employees only want customers to boycott Book Culture until they are reinstated. McNamara says that the rest of Book Culture’s remaining employees (except those who are related to the owners) are 100% in support of boycott and the Unfair Labor Practice charge filed against Doeblin by the RWDSU.

The case will go to a hearing held by the National Labor Relations Board, which will determine whether Book Culture’s owners acted illegally in firing the five employees.



Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. Anonymous

    Where'd you guys learn how to write clickbait headlines like this? Vice?

  2. Hell,

    I boycott book culture because of their sky high prices


  3. Yo

    It's the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), not the National Labor Board (NLB). The latter has been dead for some seventy years.

  4. Anonymous

    nice post. directly written!

  5. Anonymous

    columbia university school of social justice

  6. How about Andrew?

    How about a story about Andrew Hamilton (GS 13) passing away? The kid made a big impact on a lot of people and a lot of Columbians are reeling right now.

    • Anonymous

      Because these blogs only write about current students. Columbia has thousands of alumni. To read about an alumnus, check out the schools publications.

      • Anonymous  

        That's not true. There have been articles about recent graduates and students on leave who have died, and there will be a memorial for Andrew on campus in a couple weeks, so that's a campus event Bwog could definitely alert people about. But since I found out about Andrew dying, I've been kind of dreading the moment the news will get made into a Bwog article, with the same notice about mental health services and "I didn't know him, but this is still sad" comments that are on every Bwog article about a death. It seems like that formulaic someone-died Bwog article would strip all the individuality from Andrew and this tragedy. I'm pleasantly surprised it hasn't been written.

  7. Anonymous

    I've cum in countless books at that store

  8. Waaaaaah

    If you don't like your job, FIND ANOTHER ONE

  9. Samantha

    Hmm. I don't think there nearly enough of a basis here to justify the boycotting of this bookstore. From what I can see, this comes down to a disagreement over a sort of legal grey area, and therefore hardly justifies an effort to support the destruction of a business which is already hanging on by a thread, in an industry already hanging on by a thread.

    • Anonymous

      as an employee: I agree that this is a legal grey area. what we expected was for the lawyers & NLRB to sort it out while we all continued to work, instead of people being fired :( (this is technically illegal and we will also be fighting it in court.)

      we're not trying to jack our wages up to $20 an hour or anything like that. we just want a way to legally enforce the holiday pay, sick days, and automatic raises that management has promised and continually fails to provide; we'd like to not be screamed/cursed at on the shop floor; and we'd like to not be on medicaid or food stamps while working full-time.

      this isn't a case of "the big bad union" picking on chris doeblin. this is a case of chris doeblin taking advantage of his employees for years (see earlier spec posts) and employees getting together, discussing how we could improve our workplace, and eventually deciding that collective bargaining was the best way to do so.

      being a small business doesn't excuse treating your employees like shit. we're encouraging a boycott until we get our coworkers rehired so we can move on and negotiate a contract that keeps book culture strong and in business and gives us the respect and voice on the job that we're hoping for.

  10. Anonymous

    I feel for the employees, but bookstores are struggling right now. Like the video, record, and music stores before them, most bookstores will be gone soon. We should support our locla businesses. If it closes, everyone loses.

  11. Virgilio  

    As an Academic Marxist, I am genuinely torn...

    (Just kidding, the petite-bourgeoisie is still a bourgeoise. No excuse.)

  12. Greg

    Unpaid interns would solve this problem immediately

  13. Serpent King  

    If they didn't like that they couldn't unionize, they could always have found another job. Employers should be able to set any conditions they like for hire.

  14. Arsene Wenger

    I too am bored enough to comment on Bwog during the summer

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.