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Labyrinth employees officially unionize after signing of recognition agreement

A brick building sits alongside a icy sidewalk. The building has windows in front and there are books in the windows. The sign above the windows reads "LABYRINTH BOOKS" just above a blue awning.
Labyrinth employees are officially unionized as of Jan. 10.
Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian

Employees of Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street, the store’s owners, and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) signed a voluntary recognition agreement on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 10, officially marking the unionization of Labyrinth workers.

This concludes a brief unionization process that employees first announced to the public on Dec. 21, 2023. Labyrinth employees will collectively bargaining their contract, the next step in the process, while Labyrinth participates coursebook season for Princeton students at the start of the Spring semester.


The day before, Labyrinth owners Dorothea von Moltke, Cliff Simms, and Peter Simms announced that they would recognize the union voluntarily, which halted a election process among employees that would have otherwise occurred if they did not recognize the union. In an interview with the Daily Princetonian, Rebecca Ziemann, who works at the store, said the recognition announcement “came out of nowhere, and [she] was pleasantly surprised.”

The recognition was not official until the following day as the two parties needed to confirm the details of the agreement in a legally binding manner. In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ RWDSU representative Maria DiPasquale described it as being “a pretty typical back and forth procedure.”

As is typical in this stage of union negotiations, the next step for Labyrinth workers will be collective bargaining. According to a 2022 Bloomberg Law analysis, the average time for a union to negotiate its first contract is 465 days. Nonetheless, employees are optimistic that they will soon reach the bargaining table. Ziemann said she does not think that unionization efforts will interfere with workers’ effectiveness in their jobs.

“We want workers to come to the bargaining table fairly quickly,” Ziemann said. “Coursebook season runs from the end of January through mid-February, which is a large chunk of time. In my planning, we would run [the collective bargaining process] concurrently with coursebook season.”

Before they can begin bargaining, employees must first establish a bargaining committee consisting of a select few workers and representatives from the RWDSU. Ziemann stressed that such a committee must be representative of the many departments and interests within Labyrinth. In an interview earlier this month, Ziemann said that she works in the receiving department, which prepares books for sale.

Most of the demands of the employees remain the same as those outlined in the initial unionization announcement, although they have yet to be finalized. Ziemann noted the importance of “higher wages, wages that are more in line with increased responsibility, regular pay raises,” and the granting of additional paid time off. 


Regarding non-economic demands, she stressed “more transparency, being treated with more dignity and respect, and overall just having a voice in the decisions that are made at the store.”

As the union moves towards the collective bargaining process, Ziemann emphasized, “we definitely want to have more of those conversations with our co-workers to actually get a real concrete list of what we’re gonna fight for.”

For now, DiPasquale said that workers are “focused on getting to the bargaining table and negotiating a wonderful first contract that will be a foundation for them to continue to build off.”

Christopher Bao is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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