The Powell's workers union has asked the federal Department of Labor to launch an investigation into the bookkeeping of its former secretary/treasurer Britta Duncan.

At its member meeting last night, the ILWU Local 5 leadership told the bookshop employees that the new treasurer, who started last spring, quickly noticed errors and strange issues in the union's finances. The union launched an internal investigation and allege that Duncan may have stolen up to $50,000.

Duncan has yet to return a request for comment from the Mercury.

An investigator from the Department of Labor will likely be coming to Portland this month to investigate the charges, says union representative Ryan Takas. The investigator will comb through five years of union receipts and if they find evidence against Duncan, the feds could charge her with a crime and demand restitution of the missing cash.

"It's a really slow and frustrating process, because we just want justice now, of course," says Takas. "Embezzlement is not an uncommon crime. When you have a group who really trusts each other, a certain chunk of people are going to take advantage of that."

The Powell's union celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010, but hit rocky time this year when the book store laid off 31 workers. Since then, the bookstore has been telling workers to stay positive.

But today, Powell's announced that it will lay off eight managers, including CEO of Operations Ann Smith (who, sadly, sent out the press release about her own layoff).

Takas says the apparent embezzlement is profoundly disappointing, but that the union will be fine. "It's not deadly blow, but it's certainly a setback."