Enraged and outraged non-union Barnes & Noble warehouse employees in Monroe staged a protest to demand immediate protections against the rapid spread of COVID-19 in their workplace.
The workers said they are angered and alarmed by news that there are nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Barnes & Noble warehouse. Management gave them the news in a letter earlier today, sparking
This Barnes & Noble facility employs nearly 800 workers, most of whom are Latino immigrants.
At the protest, the Barnes & Noble workers and their allies released the following set of demands:
-Closure of the warehouse for two weeks;
-Paid time-off during those two weeks;
-Full sanitization of the facility while it’s closed;
-Hazard pay for when the workers return;
-Upon return, better safety protections, including sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing and cleaning;
-Recognition of the ability to self-quarantine and refuse to work without retaliation;
-New Jersey state government action must enforce these demands.
The Barnes & Noble warehouse workers welcomed members and leaders of Movimiento Cosecha, Warehouse Workers Stand Up; the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United/SEIU; along with New Jersey community and labor allies.
All participants in this news event practiced social distancing.
“The negligence and irresponsibility of Barnes & Noble has made our workplace the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Monroe, New Jersey. To date, nine workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and many more are showing symptoms. Workers like me should not have to choose between staying healthy or feeding our families. The company has not shown any real appreciation for their workers. Some of my coworkers are forced to work under unsafe conditions and the rest of us are staying home out of fear without any pay,” said Elsa Rodriguez, who has been a Barnes & Noble warehouse employee at the Monroe, New Jersey facility for the past fifteen years.
New Jersey elected officials and labor leaders expressed support today for Barnes & Noble workers like Elsa and her colleagues.
“Warehouse operators like Barnes & Noble have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure workplace
during the pandemic. I firmly support the workers’ demands for a two-week closure of the warehouse, paid time off during those two weeks, full cleaning of the facility while it’s closed, and hazard pay when the workers return. Upon reopening, there should be better safety precautions, including sufficient personal protective equipment, social distancing and cleaning. Workers should be able to self-quarantine and refuse to work without retaliation. If Barnes & Noble will not provide a safe workplace during this pandemic, I will investigate whether state government should step in to ensure these workers are protected,” said Senator Linda R. Greenstein (D-14).
“Everyone is entitled to a safe workplace especially in this time of crisis. These warehouse employees deserve not only to be kept safe while doing their jobs but also a fair wage as they help to sustain our economy during these uncertain times. I stand in solidarity with the Barnes & Noble workers in their fight,”said Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14).
“We are proud to offer support and solidarity to these Barnes & Noble warehouse workers as they take action to protect themselves, their families, and their community. New Jersey has classified these workers as essential, but Barnes & Noble has made workers feel disposable. We call upon the state government to investigate why the pandemic infected so many at this facility and to ensure the company has implemented crucial health and safety protocols,” said Alberto Arroyo, Co-Manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United/SEIU, a labor union that represents several thousand warehouse workers in New Jersey.
The Barnes & Noble worker protest occured amid growing labor unrest and strife as COVID-19 spreads to more warehouse facilities.