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Letter to the Editor: Faculty on unionization at Labyrinth Books

A storefront with a blue awning and multicolored books behind a glass window.
Labyrinth Books, the University-affiliated bookstore on Nassau St.
Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian

The following is a Letter to the Editor and reflects the authors’ views alone. For information on how to submit a piece to the Opinion section, click here.

Labyrinth Books, among its many connections to Princeton, convenes a faculty advisory committee that meets once a semester to give advice on store policies in the changing context of the University’s curricular needs. The unionization of employees at Labyrinth is a decision that we as members of that committee greet warmly, expecting that it will only strengthen an institution that is both so vital to the Princeton community and so beloved. Furthermore, knowing the actors involved, we have every reason to hope that a successful agreement can be reached in a mutually respectful manner.


The advisory committee does not exercise any formal oversight over Labyrinth’s operations, and we speak here as individuals rather than on behalf of the committee. But our positions do afford us perspective on some recent criticisms of Labyrinth’s management aired in the ‘Prince’s’ coverage, which we want to address in the hopes that clarification will strengthen the foundation for successful bargaining. 

Organizers have expressed concern that the store has been deliberately reducing the number of staff eligible to participate in collective bargaining. A full view shows that staffing levels have been at consistent levels since the pandemic, despite a more than 50 percent decrease in course book sales since 2019. In the past four years, there have been between 17 and 21 full and part-time employees at the end of the spring course book rush, and there are 19 now. The spring is ordinarily the quietest time of year at the store, and though we cannot speak to the current workload, current staffing numbers are consistent with those of previous years.

If there were any indication that Labyrinth is attempting to “shrink the bargaining unit” to diminish workers’ power in negotiations, we would be gravely concerned. But, having been involved with the store for many years, we do not see evidence that this is happening. No one from the bargaining unit to which the union has agreed has been let go, and the only eligible employees who have left Labyrinth resigned. Any changes in staffing size are in keeping with the store’s past practices.

We are not in a position to speak to all of the concerns voiced in the organizers’ Feb. 13 letter, but we found it important to address those of which we have some useful knowledge. We support Labyrinth employees’ desire to unionize and Labyrinth’s recognition of the union, and we have every reason to believe that the management of the store is prepared to work hard to arrive at a fair agreement. Labyrinth is a great institution because every time anyone walks in, they are greeted by people who are helpful, knowledgeable, and dedicated to books. We are grateful to everyone at the store, and we hope to see Labyrinth flourish in its indispensable role as a campus and town center for critical and imaginative thinking, talking, and reading — a great place to visit and a great place to work.

Jeff Dolven is a professor in the Department of English. He can be reached at Andrea Graham is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She can be reached at Brian Kernighan is a professor in the Department of Computer Science. He can be reached at Eldar Shafir is a professor in the Departments of Psychology and SPIA. He can be reached at They all serve on the faculty advisory committee for Labyrinth Books.