USLAC Statement Highlights Unfair Hiring Practices by Wesleyan’s New Bookstore, Hints of Potential Boycott

“If the Wesleyan Administration and R.J Julia refuse to meet these conditions, we will organize a boycott of the new bookstore until they do.”

Last Thursday night, we received a tip from a member of USLAC (United Student/Labor Action Coalition) about unfair hiring practices by the managing company of the new Wesleyan bookstore on Main Street, RJ Julia Booksellers. The tip read as a press release and was also shared on the USLAC Facebook page, where it received over 20 shares.

In the release, USLAC members state that current employees at Broad Street were promised jobs early on by R.J. Julia, but were left without any concrete information on on their future employment for months, only to find out that their new positions would come with a cut to their pay and benefits. The release also highlights accounts of racially-coded criticism coming from management at R.J. Julia. The statement makes 3 specific demands of R.J. Julia and the Wesleyan administration and hints of future actions and a potential boycott of the bookstore if the demands are not met. Read past the jump for USLAC’s full statement:

When Wesleyan announced that it planned to move the bookstore to Main Street last November, Michael Roth said “We’re committed to strengthening the ties between campus and Main Street.” Unfortunately, his idea of strengthening those ties does not seem include treating bookstore workers fairly. During the process of moving the bookstore and changing its management, workers have been forced to wait months before knowing if they will be able to keep their jobs and have been told by the store’s new managing company, R.J Julia, that they will have to take a cut to their benefits and pay. Workers have had to undergo a lengthy interview process to continue working jobs that they have already done competently for years. In addition, non-white workers have faced the implication that they do not fit into what the new managing company calls “the R.J Julia Experience.” When workers have spoken out against mistreatment by R.J Julia, they have been met with scolding and intimidation.

USLAC, the United Student-Labor Action Coalition, is gravely concerned about the allegations against R.J Julia and will be mobilizing in solidarity with bookstore workers during the coming weeks and months. We will be organizing the Wesleyan Community to put pressure directly on the school administration and R.J Julia to meet these fair and simple demands:

1. Give all current bookstore workers the opportunity to keep their jobs if they wish to.
2. Guarantee that returning workers will receive at least the salary and benefits they had been receiving before the move.
3. Inform workers immediately about any changes in their workplace and allow them the chance to discuss these issues freely without fear of losing their jobs.

USLAC will organize through demonstrations, a petition drive and phone-call campaigns to make sure that these demands are met. We will not let Wesleyan’s administration or President Roth deny responsibility for the workers in the campus bookstore. If the Wesleyan Administration and R.J Julia refuse to meet these conditions, we will organize a boycott of the new bookstore until they do.

Bookstore workers are part of our community, they are part of the life of our university and they deserve respect. Wesleyan University and R.J Julia should not profit from their mistreatment. During Wesfest and after it, USLAC will organize in solidarity with these workers to make sure that they are treated justly.

A member of USLAC emphasized to me that the statement was representing students’ concerns and shouldn’t be conflated with a statement from bookstore workers themselves.

WSA Senator Anthony Price ’20 commented on USLAC’s post about ongoing conversations between him and R.J. Julia management:

Thank you for sharing. I’m Anthony Price, WSA Senator ’20. Just wanted give you an update on my end….I have stated the concerns regarding workers for the new bookstore and have been informed that all were offered to apply along with an interview and will hear back soon regarding their particular status. I have been informed from workers that they have been offered a job at the new book store- there’s some progress. I have also addressed the lack of diversity in the job application and interview process and members of RJ Julia have been informed. There will be improvements made and have been informed they will remain committed to diversity and have a diverse pool. I encourage members of Wesleyan USLAC come to the Wesleyan Student Assembly General Assembly meeting this Sunday and continue to address this concern during Open Forum as I plan to continue to as long to continue to hold those in power accountable. Thank you.

Another member of USLAC mentioned via email: “We’re planning our next steps in a way that is sensitive to the needs and wishes of the workers but will be making more announcements in the next few days.” At this point, neither the Wesleyan administration nor the management of R.J. Julia have addressed these concerns in a public, transparent manner.

If you have any information relating to this issue, feel free to send an email to staff[at]wesleying[dot]org or submit an anonymous tip here. We’ll be sure to update the site with new information as it comes in.

  • ’19

    Thanks for doing this. I’m not part of USLAC, but I am part of the obscenely privileged student body of Wesleyan, and I’m all for a boycott of the store unless all of the above demands are met.