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    Unions at Oxford University Press and Barnes & Noble are continuing to organize the book world.

    James Folta

    April 1, 2024, 1:01pm

    We may be in for another hot labor summer in literature and publishing this year. Two recent news items caught my eye, as workers continue organizing in the world of books.

    Workers at the Oxford University Press Union are threatening to strike as negotiations with management continue to stall. The union has faced stiff resistance, and filed a successful complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the Oxford University Press has broken the law by refusing to negotiate and by moving bargaining union work overseas. A strike may be next for the union as they continue to fight for better conditions and protections “to ensure the sustainability of OUP’s legacy and to serve as a model for fairness and stability across the industry.”

    Elsewhere, Barnes & Noble workers are gearing up to unionize more of the chain’s more than 600 stores. Organizing efforts have already been successful at seven stores, and workers are hoping to keep the momentum up and push for more.

    Barnes & Noble’s CEO James Daunt’s attempts to squash further organizing and slow-walk negotiations haven’t been particularly effective, and he has made the argument against organizing oddly personal. The Guardian quotes Zane Crockett, a bookseller at a unionized store in Bloomington, Illinois, who said that Daunt called into “the store himself saying a vote for the union is a vote against him.” A New York bookseller, Jessica Sepple, said that the CEO’s “big argument against us unionizing was it would make [Daunt’s] life harder, which he would repeat several times. It wasn’t very successful.”

    Of course, the goal of unionizing isn’t to make one CEO’s life worse, but rather to improve the working conditions of the many workers whose labor keeps these companies in business. Here’s hoping we’ll see more successful organizing this year, in literary spaces and elsewhere.

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