As with any relationship, we see both positive as well as problematic issues with how Powell’s is reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. We acknowledge there is no playbook for how to best approach the situation and for what is going well, we want to give Powell’s accolades:
The measures taken to ensure those workers who have been recalled are safe, provided with sufficient PPE, are in an environment that allows for social distancing, and the flexibility of allowing workers who are otherwise concerned about their personal health and wellbeing to be excused from the workplace have all been to the highest caliber. In short, we praise Powell’s for their efforts on this. Similar as well with their approach for when the stores are re-opened (including directional aisles, plexiglass guards, and a requirement for customers to wear masks) - this too deserves praise for their consideration for employees as well as customer safety.
However, not everything about how Powell’s is treating its employees deserves praise. The single most pressing issue is the fact that Powell’s has refused to work with the union on issues regarding employee wage and benefits levels when they are returned to the workplace. To be clear, ILWU Local 5 believes the ethical treatment of workers in this unprecedented moment is as follows:
When Powell’s employees are returned to work, they should be guaranteed their former hourly wage as well as benefits level. Powell’s workers deserve to hold onto the wage and benefits they have achieved.
Local 5 will continue to engage the Company on this issue as we look towards the future - an incredible bookstore staffed by incredible, knowledgeable and passionate booksellers.
In the meantime, for anyone who wishes to show their support for the workers of Powell’s, please shop for books through our partner link: https://www.ilwulocal5.com/Support/ where 7.5% of every sale directly supports the workers of Powell’s.