Powell’s Books workers to strike on Labor Day

By OPB staff (OPB)
Sept. 2, 2023 5:40 p.m.
Powell's Books in downtown Portland.

Powell's Books in downtown Portland.

OPB file photo

Powell’s Books will be closed on Labor Day, as its workers go on a one-day strike.


About 300 workers represented by ILWU Local 5 voted to authorize a strike in mid-August. They’re asking for higher wages and more affordable health benefits.

Workers at Oregon’s widely beloved tourist destination have been negotiating for a new contract for about seven months. The most recent contract expired in June after multiple extensions.


The two parties are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Company executives issued a statement Friday saying they would be closing the company’s retail stores due to insufficient staffing. In addition to its flagship location in downtown Portland, the company has locations in Southeast Portland and Beaverton.

Company representatives also said they supported workers’ right to strike.

“We understand it can be part of the bargaining process, and we will honor and respect it,” they wrote on Facebook.

Workers at the massive new-and-used bookstore franchise have been unionized for more than 20 years. They last authorized a strike in 2003.

In a statement issued on Aug. 11, unionized workers said the company’s most recent “last, best, final offer,” included substandard wages and expensive health benefits.

They said entry level booksellers start at $15.45 an hour, the area’s minimum wage, while about 85% of unionized workers make below the area’s living wage of $21.85. Many workers’ wages are capped below that rate, they said.


Related Stories

10 Questions With Jeremy Garber Of Powell's Books

You're Jeremy Garber. You've loved books your entire life and for the past 13-plus years you've worked at the Camelot of literary institutions: Powell's Books. First as a cashier, then as a bookseller, then as a used-book buyer and now as the events coordinator for the biggest independent bookstore in the country. You curate what the public sees and write reviews for some of the biggest translated titles in the world. Then, OPB came and had the audacity to ask you why books are so important.