Hot on the heels of author/ex-Powell's employee Alexis Smith's criticism of Powell's on Brad Listi's podcast Other People, long-time Powell's employee Stephen Strausbaugh just gave an interview to KBOO about what he sees as an anti-worker climate within the company.
Strausbaugh, a former steward in the Powell's employee union who left the bookstore a few months ago, describes a "massive transformation" in the company in recent years. "There's been a huge move toward eliminating full-time positions with benefits and replacing them with 16-hour-a-week, unbenefited positions," says Strausbaugh, echoing Smith's criticisms and explaining that the number of part-time positions has skyrocketed since the union's contract was last negotiated. "Their marketing is very different than the reality. People have this really feel-good sense about Powell's, and if you have that feel-good sense you really need to support the workers that are there now, because it's not going to be the same bookstore if these workers are all forced out."
Powells' union contract is up for renegotiation in January; Strausbaugh urges customers to let the company know that employee well-being is important to them. "You can go into Powell's and fill out a customer comment card, say please allow your workers access to benefits. These employees that are being hired at 16 hours a week, they're never going to be given more hours, and they're never going to achieve benefits no matter how long they stay there, because the goal is to have a high-turnover workforce, and not the culture of long-standing, very knowledgeable employees."
You can also—and I didn't know this—order books through the Powell's employee union's website, and 7.5% of your purchase will go to the workers' strike fund.
Here's the whole interview: