Wichita Half Price Books unionizes after 8-4 vote


Brianna Cook

On Nov. 16, the employees of Half Price Books voted to unionize, following other Half Price Books stores in the country.

About a year ago, four Half Price Books stores in Minnesota unionized, on Nov. 16 Wichita’s Half Price Books voted in favor to unionize, becoming the eighth. 

Anna Kalnina and Darcy Jantzen led the movement.

“Over the last year. we have been underground talking to coworkers, asking them, ‘how do you feel about the other stores that have unionized?’” Kalnina said. “Slowly through that process, we started mentioning, ‘hey, maybe we could unionize too.’”

Unions are largely responsible for workplace rules in place now, such as fire exits, breaks, sick leave, eight-hour work days, overtime pay, etc. 

“My goal is ultimately to democratize the workplace, so workers have a say and what goes on in their stores, instead of people who could take the time to visit those stores and know the needs of the store,” Jantzen said. “I do think workers typically know best.”

At Half Price Books, there are two managers: the store manager and the assistant store manager. They are there every day and all of the workers can go to them about anything that may be going on in the store. Upper management is different from store management.

“The relationship between workers and upper management is difficult. It’s hard to get a hold of them, it’s hard to get responses in a timely manner to things,” Kalnina said. “We feel that a lot of things do slip through the cracks, so that’s something we do want to improve.”

Upper management did not respond to The Sunflower’s request for comment.

Some employees said they believe that if management is treating its employees well, there’s no reason to unionize. Jantzen and Kalnina said they believe that unions give a voice to the workers. 

“The bottom line of most corporations is to work you as much as you can for as little as they can, and I don’t think that’s right,” Jantzen said. “I just think it’s important for workers to have a say. Management typically tends to take it personally. We don’t see it that way. We love our management. It’s more to do with corporate policies than our direct managers.” 

The workers at Half Price Books said they love their jobs. They said that the company is progressive and they have their starting wage at $15, according to Jantzen and Kalnina.

“But why stop there?” Kalnina said. “Why not listen to your workers and make it even better … I love saying that I love my job, but I wish it didn’t get followed by ‘but.’”

Half Price Books employees said being unionized gives a few workers a seat at the table. The unionized said they hope to be now heard by the people that run the company.

“After Thanksgiving, we will start bargaining. It’s very exciting,” Kalnina said.

For more information about unions and unionizing, go to https://aflcio.org/formaunion.

“I grew up in a union family, and I’ve seen the benefits as far as wages, health care, that kind of stuff,” Jantzen said. “To me, it’s worth it. No matter where you work, no matter what you do, it’s always going to be worth it to have a say in your job.”