Tuesday, November 11, 2003NOTE: It's been drawn to my attention that the name of the letter writer was most likely misspelled. I am leaving the following for the the sake of honesty.
Calling Mr. Bennet
Something's fishy on the editorial page today - a letter from a Mr. "Craig Mattesonch," who claims to be an "Alum." In the letter, Mr. "Mattesonch" writes the following:
"When I was a teenager, I used to drive to downtown Ann Arbor to buy books that I could not get at home. There was no Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. Nowadays the retail book environment is extremely competitive. Customers are very price conscious and expect discounts. Borders's net income is only 3.2 percent of sales and was only 2.6 percent the year before.
Employees should realize that a union cannot negotiate away competitive realities. If Borders were to let its cost structure get out of line with its industry they will become uncompetitive and eventually fail. We have all watched favorite independent stores evaporate. They disappeared because you and I preferred the discounts the larger chains and online sellers were able to offer. It is our buying habits that decide which stores survive and which do not. These are market realities that every retail company must face or they must die. The cost of labor is one of those realities
Frankly, I have done work with Borders and know for a fact that it is most concerned with giving a voice to their employees. I know it has worked very hard to learn what matters most to every employee and to create a compensation package and a work environment that is optimal for the employees within the competitive realities of the marketplace. Borders works to continue to improve its offering.
We should all want to keep this great Ann Arbor institution competitive and growing.
Well, at least he admits having "done work with Borders," but how in earth would anyone know that Borders "net income was 3.2% of sales," let alone the figure for year before, and not work in the corporate headquarters? I think this letter was sent in with a fraudulent name by the Borders corporation, or a union-busting law firm and consulting firm they have hired. The whole thing smacks of propaganda and emotional manipulation: it tries to wrap Borders' history in a shroud of hometown nostalgia ("when I was a teenager"), and suggest that bookselling might leave Ann Arbor in the same way auto plants left Detroit. Such allegations are lies, and seek to manipulate the emotions of the public and confuse the situation: Borders, which made over $100 Million in profits last year, is an extremely profitable corporation and could easily pay their employees a living wage. Also, creating a union to advocate on behalf of your interests is a basic constitutional right with a long history in America, while sending fraudulent letters to the editor in a pathetic attempt to turn public opinion against striking employees is unethical and wrong, although also in a long tradition of vicious American strikebreaking.
How am I so sure that this "Craig Mattesonch" doesn't exist? He's not in the University of Michigan online directory, and a quick google search for just his last name comes up with zero responses. In fact, according to AT&T's Anywho.com (Which includes every publicly listed telephone number in America) there are no persons with a listed telephone number and the last name "Mattesonch" in the state of Michigan. (Or California, New York, or any other state I checked, for that matter.) Sure, there's the possibility that the Daily misspelled his name, but I think the letter alone provides enough evidence to conclude it was written as part of a calculated campaign to discredit the employees.
The responsibility of making sure letter authors actually exists falls with the editors of the Michigan Daily. They should consider requiring letter writers include a telephone number, and calling the number before printing the letter. (The Ann Arbor News has such a policy.) At the very least, they should do a little investigating when a letter as suspicious as the one above comes to their inbox. And at this point, they should email back this person and ask them if they really are an "Alum," and to disclose whether they are being paid by Borders, and if so, he issue deserves nothing less than large correction and full news story: 'Borders' management pens fake letter.'
Posted by Rob at 11:00 AM