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Book Clerks Plan to Picket Phillips Store

SDS Will join Protest Of Employee's Firing

By Ruth Glushien

Employees of the Phillips Book Store in Harvard Square and the labor committee of H-R SDS will picket the store today unless its management agrees to rehire a union organizer and to "cease further attempts to hinder formation of a union."

An employees groups chares that Phillips hindered their attempts to unionize by firing the organizer, Bruce McMurray, a 1968 Ed School graduate, on Feb. 10 for "damaging employee morale."

Picketing of the store will begin at 9 a.m. today unless the demands are met. The manager of the store said yesterday that she expected "an amicable settlement" of the dispute.

The organizing effort began about a month ago to end what the employee committee charges is an "inequitable wage policy." Phillips, they claim, has paid temporary help higher wage rates than permanent employees. Harvard students hired for inventory, they say, received $2 an hour, while permanent employees receive a maximum of $1.89. The group claims also that Phillips has paid employees unequal wages for the same work and has not granted raises to workers with seniority.

Brentano's Subsidiary

Phillips is presently a subsidiary of Brentano's Books, whose New York office is in control of local labor policy. Of Brentano's 25 national stores, only the New York and Boston branches are unionized.

"When Brentano's bought Phillips," claims Ann Williams '69-2, a former Brentano clerk and a member of the labor committee, "the wage scale at Phillips was higher than it is now. Since then," she said, "they have hired new people at a lower rate of minimum wage."

The Brentano office in New York was unavailable for comment on the group's charges. The Phillips store manager, Margaret Specht, said only that she expected "an amicable settlement."

Unionizing Procedure

The employees group yesterday obtained authorization cards from Charles Warren, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 711 of the Retail Clerks International. Under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, 30 per cent of Phillips' employees must request collective representation in order to hold a union election. If 50 per cent then vote for a union in the election, Phillips is legally bound to bargain with that union.

The employees group claims that the Retail Clerks Union will organize the store only if 75 per cent of the workers sign pledge cards of the union, 25 per cent more than technically required. But this is not, according to other union sources, an unusual practice. The employees committee will circulate the cards tomorrow.

"The threat of a picket line, however, will be the most effective," said Miss Williams. "Brentano's president, Leonard Schwartz, is sensitive about the store's image as a community center."

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