[Portland, Oregon. JUNE 2nd, 2021] - Against the backdrop of recent reports that Powell’s filled 41 of 46 recently posted positions with laid-off workers (a claim ILWU Local 5 disputes), Powell’s offered the Union another settlement in an effort to resolve the ongoing conflict.
Though the Company’s latest offer showed only minor improvements over their previous offer, the benefit it afforded laid-off workers — restoring their pre-layoff vacation accrual rates — was purely theoretical, as the offer contained an expiration date and no actual assurance that more workers would be brought back by that date. Moreover, it still fell short of addressing the breadth and scope of Union grievances. In the offer, the Company made no movement from their previous position that laid-off workers wishing to return would be required to go through the same application and interview process as the general public, even if the job in question was the one they’d held prior to the layoffs — an experience workers have described as “demeaning,” “awkward,” and “humiliating.” These laid-off workers (many of whom are lifelong booksellers) would have no guarantee of employment or their former wage. ILWU Local 5 maintains that the Company is wrong to deny laid-off workers their contractually mandated recall rights.
In exchange for this tenuous gift to laid-off workers, described by Powell’s as “very generous,” the Company stipulated that all grievances the Union had filed over the past 14 months concerning the Company’s mishandling of layoffs and misallocation of union work to non-union employees be dropped. This would be a wholesale abandonment of the remaining laid-off workers’ contractual rights and union membership. There is nothing generous about Powell’s repeated attempts to use the pandemic as a means to cast aside lifelong booksellers. While the Union made a counteroffer to Powell’s — one that would provide a clear and equitable path to re-employment without hindering the Company’s ability to set the pace for staffing increases — Powell’s has again withdrawn from negotiations with ILWU Local 5, instead opting for a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach. ILWU Local 5 is unwavering in its commitment to the rights of members. A settlement offer that contains empty promises and/or seeks to buy off some members in exchange for selling out the rights of others is totally unacceptable. The Union is undeterred and will continue to insist that Powell’s fulfill its moral and contractual obligations to the workers who have devoted so much of their lives to the company’s success.