Copperfield’s Books Petaluma staff opted to unionize with a landslide 13-to-2 vote. The election is still awaiting certification by federal regulators, but veteran bookseller Robert Glover said the staff is looking forward to negotiations, which began on May 31.
"I think everybody was very excited and elated by the outcome," Glover said. "t's a huge milestone, and I think everyone has acknowledged that. But it's also a reminder that there's still a lot of work to be done."
Employees at Copperfield's Books’ Petaluma location publicly announced intentions to unionize in March. Glover said despite pushback from the North Bay chain’s corporate office, pro-union staffers see this as a step towards better communication between the two parties.
"Ultimately, we want to set up a kind of structure of open communication between us and corporate. we want to do this because we love the bookstore, we're very passionate about what we do, and that communication is key," Glover said.
Glover said the reaction from customers has been largely positive.
"I'm really proud to be a part of a community that believes that we should be getting a fair wage as well. It further solidifies this idea that we're doing the right thing," Glover said.
Copperfield’s management chose not to recognize unionizing efforts, opting for a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Copperfield's staff have been vocal in calling for better wages, affordable health care, more sick leave, and more comprehensive harassment training.
Alfonso Gaitan is a part-time student and bookseller at Copperfield’s Petaluma. He said a lack of training in how to handle hostile customers has been his greatest concern.
"My focus, for the most part, has been on how how to make those unpleasant instances of discrimination towards our co-workers of color or trans co-workers or queer, trans-co-workers, how to make those less common, and how to defuse the situations better when they hurt, because currently speaking for myself as a person of color, I feel like the current structure around that is not great," Gaitan said.
In a statement released on the company’s website last month, Copperfield’s management alleged staff disseminated misinformation online. And that unionizing efforts have been a quote “point of sadness,” for the company and “deeply hurt our team.". Copperfield’s chief operating officer, Aubury Doherty, echoed the sentiment.
"We're hoping the negotiation is going to be in good faith. we really hope this works out in the favor of everyone," Doherty said. "Senior management really believes that this wasn't the right move for our company. I really believe this isn't the right move for our company."
For KRCB News, I’m Tash Kimmell in Petaluma.