Powell's Books of Portland
Powell’s has several sites in the Portland area, as well as an online presence. Its flagship store on Burnside is a bibliophile’s dream, covering an entire city block and three stories high, with over 68,000 SF of book-selling space offering both new and used books. Its owner, Michael Powell, has championed liberal causes from gay rights to anti-censorship campaigns. The drive for unionization began in earnest in 1998, after a failed attempt in 1991. Powell’s employees already had good benefits and profit-sharing, but a drop in store profits led to a corporate decision to cut pay raises.
This, along with worker dissatisfaction in a company that was becoming more corporate and less personal, led to the drive to unionize. Many months of turmoil and drama followed, with endless meetings, rallies, work stoppages and other activities.
In the end, in August of 2000, Powell’s became the first unionized bookstore in the US.