Sunday, November 09, 2003I just sent this email to a few bloggers:
"LEFTIST BLOGGERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE
Greetings. I am a student at the University of Michigan, and operator of the Ann Arbor blog goodspeedupdate.com I am writing to you with a request of assistance, as I believe now provides a perfect opportunity to justify our collective self-indulgent online writings.
The employees of Borders' Books and Music first, and oldest store, located on Liberty Street several blocks from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan have gone on strike. This store, known as “Store #1” to the Borders corporation, is one of two stores in the nation whose employees have voted to create a union. In December 2002, the employees of the store voted 51-4 to create a union, and have thus far failed to negotiate a contract with Borders – they are calling for a “living wage” (already many cities – Ann Arbor included – pay city employees this wage, determined by a local cost of living) and improved benefits, among others.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
I believe the strike of Border's workers is important not because of its magnitude, but because its symbolic value. In an increasingly economically polarized and de-industrialized society, retail unionism seems the inevitable outcome of a situation where companies like Borders can make $125 Million in profits last year, but not increase the pay of their employees significantly in the past ten years. According to an ex-Borders employee who wrote to the Union who says she is “not always pro-union,” in 1994 the starting wage at Borders was $6.10 per hour. In 2000, when she left, it was $6.50 per hour, where it remains today. Concluding “An increase of only 6 1/2% in over NINE YEARS. Compare that to inflation, and regardless of the "industry comparisons", they are NOT paying a living wage.” (Source: )
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Post about the strike on your blog – no matter how few or many visitors you receive. Post a link, a thought, anything. Repeat. Already posted? Great work – continue to monitor the situation at the resources below and post updates as the situation develops. Also, if you'd like, send me a link to your post: I'd like to keep track of the (hopefully) ensuing blog discussion. Finally, feel free to tell your friends, and forward this email: I'm sending it to something of a limited list.
Why? You probably have not heard much about this, and there is a reason for that. It has been covered in the mainstream media in exactly three places: the University of Michigan Student newspaper "Michigan Daily,” the little-read outside of Ann Arbor “Ann Arbor News,” and as a short brief in the “Detroit Free Press.” This issue deserves publicity, and you, as a blog operator, are in the unique position to provide it. Forward this email to your friends, post your thoughts about the strike – in support or otherwise – and help create and contribute to a much needed debate about the role of unions in our society, and the issue of chronically low wages and benefits found in what has become a large part of the American economy: the retail sector.
WHERE TO GET INFORMATION
A community organization which has been closely cooperating with the striking employees, Borders Readers United, is operating a “strike blog” where you can find employee testimonials, pictures, and information from the picket lines posted daily. Their address is:
Also, I will be following the issue closely on my blog, accessible at:
(or my strike history page)
Finally, the national clearinghouse for Borders Employees website has lots of good information:
As a disclaimer, although I'm in communication with a couple members of Borders Readers United, I do not know any of the striking workers, or have any formal connections to the national unionization campaign. I am writing this email on my own initiative, and I encourage you to contact the union directly for more information:
bru (at) riseup (dot) net
527 E. Liberty Suite 203, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
OFFICIAL MESSAGE CIRCULATED BY THE UNION:
"From the Organizing Committee:
Workers at Borders Books store #1 in Ann Arbor, MI will go on strike this Saturday, November 8 at 9:00 AM. We do not take this step lightly. By striking, we hope to convince Borders Management to negotiate with us in good faith so we can reach a fair contract and return to our jobs.
We are writing to ask you to continue to support us by
1) boycotting all Borders, Waldenbooks, and Amazon.com;
2) volunteering to picket with workers in front of the store;
3) joining Borders Readers United, our community support coalition (bru (at) riseup (dot) net)
4) calling Borders Headquarters (734-477-1100) to tell them you support us;
5) coming to our Strike Fund Concert at the Ark in Ann Arbor on 11/10/03;
6) signing an online petition
7) forwarding this message to all your friends and colleagues!
In Solidarity and thanks,
Borders Workers Union Organizing Committee
Long-term Borders employee Hal Brannan says this:
After working at Borders for 18 years and trying to negotiate for nearly a year, now I must take a drastic step. At Store # 1, my coworkers and I have been hoping for a reasonable contract offer, but all we were offered was the employee handbook with the added risk of losing some things. We were hoping Borders would settle our claims of Unfair Labor Practices and turn over a new leaf; but Borders has seen fit to settle with the NLRB while continuing to intimidate and harass us. We see a strike as the last option we have to get Borders to adopt a new attitude. We need you to come to our picket line to show your support.”
BUT ROB, I DON'T AGREE ...
If you are “against” unions, or have been brainwashed to believe some BS about the free market functioning to increase wages, or the necessity of “open shop” laws, etc, I'm sorry you received this email and don't bother writing me back. I disagree, and you won't change my mind. I'm only using this hand-assembled email list once. Also, whatever I get back is subject to public ridicule. Thanks for playing, and happy blogging.
Robert C. Goodspeed
Posted by Rob at 3:55 PM