ILWU Local 5 has fielded numerous requests to issue a statement regarding Powell’s decision to continue to list Andy Ngô’s book in their online catalog. The Local’s official statement is as follows:
We stand against Andy Ngô and everything he represents. His rhetoric is antithetical to everything we hold dear as a union. We do not support or condone his actions, and we are sickened by the harm he has inflicted on our community. We are dismayed that Hachette (@HachetteUS) chose to legitimize him with a publishing deal, and encourage anyone concerned with the broad reach of Ngô’s propaganda to contact the publisher who read his manuscript and deemed it worthy of a wider audience. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That said, what Powell’s carries in their stores or online is not something the Local can dictate, nor is it something the company is obligated to negotiate with us. We can, and often do, disagree with books stocked on their shelves that do not uphold our core values as a union, but we cannot legally force their removal. That choice is Powell’s alone to make.
Booksellers, too, get to make some incredibly important choices on a regular basis. In collaboration with Powell’s management, our members have worked hard to amplify marginalized voices in the retail locations and online: dedicating permanent display space to children’s books featuring protagonists of color and young adult LGBTQIA+ books; curating recurring displays of work by transgender and nonbinary authors; rearranging entire rooms to afford more visibility to books by and about BIPOC and members of the LGBTQIA+ community; collaborating with local social justice organizations on reading lists, displays, online content, and fundraising efforts; and writing thousands upon thousands of reviews to highlight underrepresented authors and work in the aisles and online. In every step of their work as booksellers, our members make choices that reflect our core values as a union. ILWU Local 5 is tremendously proud of this work our members have been doing for years and will continue to do for years to come.
With regards to the ongoing discussion between the community and Powell’s Books, Inc.:
The priority of ILWU Local 5 is the safety of our members at work. Since Powell’s announcement that they would continue to list Ngô’s book in their online catalog, we have been in regular communication with company representatives. They have assured us that their top priority is the safety of their staff and customers, and have shared the steps they have taken with us. It is of the utmost importance that workers — who were afforded no opportunity to weigh in on this decision, but are now subject to its consequences — remain safe.