The Help Desk: A more perfect union

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

My fellow booksellers are trying to unionize. I just don't know if it's worth the time and trouble, when independent bookselling is such a low-paying job. It's not like Powell's employees are driving around in Rolls Royces, and they've been unionized for a couple of decades.

I get the importance of unions in general; my uncle works at a grocery store and he says the union has been great for him. But for a low-margin business like bookselling, it seems like this is just going to be a big timesuck that actually doesn't improve our workplace conditions. Should I vote to unionize, even if I don't think it will help? I don't want to let my coworkers down.


[Neighborhood withheld to reserve anonymity]

Dear Lawrence,

Yes, you should vote to unionize. Unions aren't perfect but show me a governing or organizing body that is. Life is bleak right now, give your coworkers a win.

That's why this year, I let Beatrix eat the Easter Bunny. (I know she's an alligator but she's still my daughter. And at her age, believing in the Easter Bunny is a bit pathetic. Don't worry, we gave him a good send off – I stuffed him full of chocolate and into a little velveteen vest first.)

Be skeptical but optimistic, engage in the process, and maybe it'll surprise you. We sure as hell surprised that bunny.