Knoxville McKay’s workers vote to unionize

Employees at used bookstore McKay’s Knoxville worked to unionize, hosting a community event to gather support.
Employees at used bookstore McKay’s Knoxville are working to unionize, and they are hosting a community event to gather support.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 3:38 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 12:43 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Employees at used book store McKay’s Knoxville voted in favor of unionizing, according to an announcement from the Communications Workers of America.

McKay’s employees were represented by the CWA, and a representative with CWA told WVLT News that the employees were unhappy with their current work arrangement and wished to organize and negotiate a fair contract with their employer.

“For decades, the workers have served readers and hobbyists in the community by providing excellent service to customers and ensuring McKay’s reputation as a beloved institution to access a wide variety of affordable second-hand books and other forms of entertainment,” CWA said. “Unfortunately, this has come at a cost for the workers who are overworked, underpaid and mistreated.”

CWA also said that the majority of McKay’s employees support unionization but were denied voluntary recognition by the company. Since then, they filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), making the Knoxville store the first to seek formal recognition for their union.

“A strong majority of the group of roughly sixty eligible workers signed union authorization cards and have pledged to vote yes in the NLRB election,” CWA said. After votes were counted, 82.6% of workers voted in favor of unionizing.

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the employees hosted an event at the American Car Center, which is next door to McKay’s, to garner support. The workers represented by CWA cited the recent rise in Knoxville business unionizations as inspiration, including Starbucks and Three Rivers Market.

McKay's employees hosted a rally to garner support for their unionization.
McKay's employees hosted a rally to garner support for their unionization.(WVLT News)

“We strongly believe we can find common ground, as Three Rivers Market did last summer, and we believe this will solidify McKay’s image as a caring and progressive space and employer,” reads McKay’s Knoxville workers’ vision statement. That statement also outlined specific concerns that employees have, including wages, scheduling and conflict-resolution.

CWA released a statement after the vote, praising the decision.

“We’re so proud to finally have a union at McKay’s Books and be able to use our collective voice to address issues that have been plaguing our workplace for years. We have kept McKay’s running through the darkest hours of the pandemic and long before, all while dealing with a lack of transparency and appreciation from McKay’s owners. Still, with our passion, dedication and love of our jobs, we have kept McKay’s a success and cornerstone of our community.

“Now we finally have a seat at the table and can begin to work with McKay’s to secure transparent and fair wages, raises, and salary adjustments, and create policies and procedures that allow all workers to feel safe and supported. Our victory serves as a reminder to workers in Tennessee and across the South that you have a voice, and change is possible when you band together.”

Communications Workers of America

WVLT News reached out to McKay’s for a statement on the effort and will update this story when they respond.