It was an early afternoon negotiations meeting at the usual place, the neighborhood community center, a few blocks from the Burnside store. With both teams present the meeting and negotiations began as usual. I had to work hard to not signal or reveal the surprise coming. When the beepers began going off I felt relieved. Cell phones were not common at that time.
The lead manager did have a cell phone. She briefly left the room and learned there was a general strike at the Burnside store. This was not a surprise to the Union team. Employees were walking off the job and walking to the community center where negotiations were happening.
When the manager with the phone returned, the first employees from the store were just beginning to arrive. In single file the management team hurriedly and wordlessly left the room. In the next twenty minutes the negotiations room was packed with Powells employees, all the chairs taken, some standing, some were sitting on the window ledges.
This room was overflowing with employees. It was one of the largest meetings the union had during the contract campaign. The bargaining team gave an update on contract progress. There were questions, and opportunities for employees to express themselves. A plan going forward was presented and discussed. It was an action day and another demonstration of the power the employees had, the importance of their labor.