After closing their physical stores due to the spread of COVID-19, Powell’s Books reportedly announced temporary layoffs that dismissed roughly 85 percent of the 400 workers represented by ILWU Local 5, according to the union. Citing “the rapid, significant downturn in sales in the recent weeks and days,” human resources director Michelle Afroso wrote to employees that the store “needs to take to immediate steps to scale back the company.” She said, “If sales continue to decrease in the future, we will need to take further action. We will try to avoid additional layoffs by reducing the size of the company over time through a hiring freeze and attrition.”
On Monday night, Powell’s warned employees it will take “several months” before they resume normal operations and further said that at least some layoffs would be permanent, not temporary.
The union said in a statement, “As with most emergencies, those that suffer the most are workers and marginalized communities. We do not believe this to be appropriate or fair and in this moment we continue to urge all Employers, including Powell’s Books, to continue to support workers in any and every way possible.”
In New York, McNally Jackson laid off a significant portion of its staff on Monday, first reported online by employees, as the company closed its retail stores to visitors. Children’s and YA buyer Cristin Stickles posted a list of 33 employees who have been let go. In a subsequent post on Medium Stickles says “nearly 80” people were temporarily laid off, including “anyone at the store less than 4 years…to be hired back at an indeterminate date. PTO through this week, health care through this month. Please support these incredible booksellers directly.” Multiple other accounts confirmed the details of the layoffs.
The store then confirmed online, “We are paying staff for the week. Beyond that, facing down a massive, unprecedented loss in revenue, in consultation with union we have laid off employees until the store is able to reopen.” They add, “The employees should also qualify for unemployment benefits as the state has accelerated that process. These layoffs are temporary; we intend to hire back our employees as soon as we can.”
The store announced on Monday morning that all NYC locations are “open for business but closed to the public,” adding, “We are still fulfilling phone and web orders at the stores, so please continue to shop with us in these confusing times.”
Separately, we have built an open spreadsheet of stores that have closed but are still processing orders and often delivering locally as well: . publun.ch/storesAnd there is a form to report store suspensions, so everyone can keep track of who needs support: . publun.ch/storeReports