UPPER WEST SIDE — Staffers at a bookstore chain near Columbia University walked off the job Wednesday in a show of support for a set of co-workers fired after a vote to unionize last week.
Holding signs that read, “REHIRE THE FIRED FIVE” and “Rehire the unlawfully fired now!” dozens of the independent bookstore Book Culture employees and union representatives formed picket lines outside the store at 112th Street and Broadway as well as the location at 2950 Broadway near 114th Street Wednesday afternoon.
“We want our workers back,”said Book Culture employee Devon Dunn, 24, who marched outside the 112th Street store.
The protest came a week after five workers — four of whom Book Culture says were managers — were fired for their participation in a union vote to be represented by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. Book Culture representatives said the managers were barred from voting, but chose to do so anyway.
Chris Doeblin, Book Culture's co-owner, said he would let the National Labor Review Board decide the legality of the firings. Those participating in the strike do not need to fear losing their jobs for picketing, he added.
“They have that right,” Doeblin said. “If they want to strike they can strike and if they want to work they can work.”
Peter Montalbano of the RWDSU said the union is fighting to restore the fired staffers because they were improperly fired. He added that the staffers were managers in name only, and had no hiring or firing rights.
Book Culture claims that those fired were legitimate managers who refused to do their jobs and were “not willing to continue to perform the role of supervisors within the new environment of having a unionized work force,” according to a statement.
Rebecca Goodbourn, who was fired after last week's vote, is confident she will get her job back.
“We know that we did not perform any of those duties,” she said. “We have no job description, it was not even implied that that was part of our job.”