According to a letter to the editor that has been written to the Daily, student volunteers with the U-M Dance Marathon organization have been gift-wrapping merchandise at a local store as part of their efforts to raise money for pediatric rehabilitation programs. One problem: that store is Borders, whose employees have been on strike since November 8. UMDM volunteers stepped in after the Family Book Club, a local charitable organization, decided not to wrap gifts after hearing of the strike. In the as-yet unpublished letter to the editor, Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality member Mike Meadow calls the cause they fundraise for “commendable,” but notes that “they need to recognize that their actions are tantamount to scabbing and are disrespectful to the striking workers and to the community at large.” He notes its unclear if Dance Marathon knows about the strike, and urges them to reconsider their decision. I’ve also been told that “SOLE is now trying to contact DM in order that we may talk directly to them about this issue.”
Since the last Daily of the semester was yesterday (Wednesday), it’s likely the letter won’t appear until January, so here it is:
“Dance Marathon is scabbing for Borders
To the Daily:
Dance Marathon, one of the most well known student groups on the University of Michigan campus, is providing scab labor to the Liberty Street Borders Bookstore where workers have been on strike for over a month.
Right now, Dance Marathon is raising money for sick kids by gift-wrapping books and CDs inside Borders. While the money Dance Marathon is raising will likely go to a good cause, they need to recognize that their actions are tantamount to scabbing and are disrespectful to the striking workers and to the community at large.
Dance Marathon raises tens of thousands of dollars every year for pediatric rehabilitation programs. This is truly commendable. Their website boasts the laudable claim that they strive “to engage and empower the campus and community to build relationships and heighten social awareness.” But Dance Marathon’s decision to cross the Borders workers’ picket line shows a disturbing lack of said “social awareness.”
As is well known in the Ann Arbor community, the Borders Workers Union is currently on strike in order to pressure Borders Inc. to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract with workers. Borders workers want to be paid a living wage. They want Borders Inc. to stop intimidating and firing pro-union workers and to honor their fundamental right to a union. They want to return to their jobs and be respected.
There has been a tremendous amount of community support for the striking workers. This is made visible every Friday at 5 p.m. where 60-70 community members have been turning out to the weekly rally supporting the striking workers.
In another show of solidarity, The Family Book Club, a charitable organization that usually raises money at this time of year by wrapping gifts at Borders, chose not to wrap gifts at the store after hearing about the strike. Dance Marathon is filling the Family Book Club’s place this year. Apparently Dance Marathon does not share the latter group’s respect for what a strike means.
I do not mean this letter as a hostile attack and I will presume for the benefit of the doubt that Dance Marathon members are simply unaware of what it means to be strike or of what solidarity means. But if the group wishes to retain its respectability, it should cease collaborating with Borders so long as workers are still walking the picket line.
Students Organizing for Labor & Economic Equality”