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Labyrinth owners announce intention to voluntarily recognize unionization of employees

A storefront with "Labyrinth Books" printed across a blue awning. Books and strings of paper cranes are displayed in the windows.
Labyrinth employees are set to vote on unionization, with a simple majority required to establish a union.
Samantha Lopez-Rico / The Daily Princetonian

On Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 10:34 a.m., the owners of Labyrinth Books announced their intention to voluntarily recognize the unionization of their staff with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), according to a press release from Dorothea von Moltke on behalf of herself and the two other owners, Cliff Simms and Peter Simms. Once the agreement is officially signed, the bargaining process will begin. Labyrinth Books will become the second bookstore in New Jersey to unionize, after the Barnes & Noble College Bookstore at Rutgers, which unionized on May 12, 2023.

This recognition marks a change from a previous statement that von Moltke made to the ‘Prince’ on Jan. 1, in which she stated that the “owners of Labyrinth recognize the intention of [their] employees to unionize … if a majority of our employees vote in favor of unionization, [the owners] will bargain in good faith for all of [their] employees and expect to reach a fair and acceptable contract,” indicating an expectation of a formal election process before the union would be officially recognized.

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Prior to Tuesday’s recognition, an election was slated to take place on Friday, Jan. 19, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Labyrinth, according to a notice of election that is still on the website of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Voluntary recognition will expedite the unionization process, as there will no longer be a need to count and confirm votes. Additionally, once the voluntary recognition is finalized, the NLRB will no longer need to be involved in the unionization process.

At the time of publication, the parties are still in negotiation to officially sign a voluntary recognition agreement, according to the RWDSU. Following guidelines provided by the NLRB, after voluntary recognition is granted, the process of collective bargaining begins, in which workers and union representatives negotiate with employers for improvements in their contracts like higher wages or more paid time off, with contracts to be voted upon by workers. However, in the event that a union is not recognized through the voluntary agreement process, the workers may continue to pursue an election with the NLRB.

A representative from the RWDSU declined to comment to the ‘Prince’ until both parties officially sign the recognition agreement.

Employees at Labyrinth initially announced their intention to unionize on Dec. 21, 2023, with various motives among employees, including a desire for greater transparency, wages, and paid time off. Rebecca Ziemann, one of the employees heavily involved in the unionization effort, told the ‘Prince’ that she was confident that there was more than the 50 percent support necessary to unionize among the employees of the store. In their press release, the owners shared that the past two weeks of organizing had convinced them of this majority.

The release also expressed the wish of the owners to use the unionization effort as an “occasion to listen to everyone, make positive changes, and form a united Labyrinth that can do all the work [they] do better together.” Von Moltke declined a request from the ‘Prince’ for an interview to explain the change of decision, citing both the wish to give time for the union to respond and the business of coursebook preparation for spring semester. 

Christopher Bao is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

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