One day after Bookshop Santa Cruz workers submitted a mission statement to owner Casey Coonerty Protti requesting voluntary recognition of their union with the Communication Workers of America Local 9423, the DSA Labor Working Group held a rally in support of their efforts. At the rally, supporters crowded at the intersection of Locust and Pacific to listen to Bookshop Santa Cruz workers explain their fight for a union and the need for all downtown workers to organize. This speech was delivered by a Bookshop worker and member of the DSA Labor Working Group. For more information about how to organize in your workplace, we meet every Monday at 7 PM.
I’m MJ and I’m a bookseller in the kids department of Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’m also part of this movement to get a union recognized.
I have worked at Bookshop since June 2019, and it has been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however--as many other workers in Santa Cruz can probably sympathize with--I’ve had to see many of my friends at work leave. The reasons behind this are usually either due to the skyrocketing cost of living in Santa Cruz, or health concerns leaving their homes during a growing pandemic without health insurance.
We’ve seen in recent years an inspiring push in the book selling industry for workers to unionize. Our friends at Verso books were just recently voluntarily recognized, and our friends at Green Apple Books, Elliott Bay, and Powells have been a huge inspiration to us as we’ve worked hard with the CWA to ensure that our requests were reasonable and fair. There was an immediate and heartwarming show of support among many of our coworkers, seeing the great potential in a proper channel of accountability and a collective voice among workers to ensure no one's needs are left out.
For the store, we have an ultimate goal of sustainability and continued business. A union has the potential to cut down on employee turnover, and thus provide a sense of stability and job security. Our big three main requests that we want to negotiate with Casey about are healthcare, a safe working environment, and LIVING wage.
During a pandemic, the access to healthcare is crucial. The ability to access a network of healthcare professionals available to answer your questions and be there with the care you require is an undeniable weight off your shoulders.
Santa Cruz’s rent market is astronomically expensive. As many hourly workers can attest to, the minimum wage in Santa Cruz is not a LIVING wage. And these hourly workers provide an irreplaceable service to Santa Cruz. Without us, there is no Bookshop, there are no coffee shops, no ice cream parlors, and no Boardwalk. Santa Cruz economy lives because of us. And we can’t afford to live here! We see the value in a living wage for ALL downtown workers as we work through a deadly pandemic to ensure our beloved businesses are able to sustain themselves.
We also recognize in Santa Cruz and all over the world a need for a work and retail environment that is safe for both customers and workers. As such, Bookshop Santa Cruz workers are requesting an alternative to policing. We are expected to call the police in many situations, and to have a relationship with the Santa Cruz police department; but many of us do not feel that this is a desirable relationship, and wish to find better, safer alternatives to requiring any police presence in our store or ideally downtown.
MJ is a bookshop worker and organizer, as well as a member of DSA Santa Cruz's Labor Working Group.