West Side Rag »Angry Ex-Workers Disrupt The Strand Opening; “Whose strand?” Our strand!
Posted on July 15, 2020 at 3:10 p.m. by Carol Tannenhauser
By Carol Tannenhauser and Kate Koza
The eagerly awaited opening Today, The Strand, an outpost of the legendary downtown bookstore, was disrupted by protesters marching in a circle past the new store at 450 Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets.
“We get sick, they get rich! they chanted. “Whose strand?” Our strand!
“We are the ones who make this store what it is,” said a young masked protester named Matthew. “We are the ones who have a passion for books.
“I don’t have health care,” Matthew shouted over the din and through his mask.
Protesters explained their frustrations to a group of spectators, citing their dissatisfaction with the work environment and pay levels, as well as sharper criticism of the store’s decision to fire workers during the lockdown of COVID-19 in New York City while applying for and receiving over $ 1 million in Paycheck Protection loan support.
While some laid-off workers have been rehired as the store gradually resumes operations – and Wyden has previously said his goal is to rehire the 188 laid-off staff – protesters claimed the rehires were not extensive enough and did not relate to other concerns, including Wyden’s possession of $ 115,000 in Amazon stock, which she previously described as a revenue-generating company to put money back into her own stores. It was also announced earlier this week that 12 recently re-hired employees would be laid off again due to what Wyden admitted was overly optimistic pedestrian traffic hopes when reopening.
Some onlookers seemed reluctant to physically walk through the group of protesters and enter the store; others entered, apparently eager to explore the reopened space and support a local, independent business in what has long been a proudly book-loving neighborhood.
“I was thrilled to be the very first customer, and I’m happy and proud,” said a local woman. “But don’t use my name until you’ve heard the details of the protest,” she added.
Wyden stood at the front of the store, positioned to greet customers and openly engage in conversation about the books and the events outside.
“When we first opened our doors, we weren’t able to rehire everyone,” she said. “It was economy. I was delighted to be able to open with a minimum of staff, after 93 years. My father and I had searched for locations. He died two years ago.
“My mother just died a month ago. She was older and the isolation didn’t help. Wyden turned to greet a customer.
“Do you buy used books here? ” He asked.
“Not yet, but we will,” Wyden replied.
It was difficult to hear him above the song.