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Mon, 27 Jan 1997 13:15:08 GMT

(8.8.4/8.7.3) with ESMTP id MAA17246 for <a-infos@tao.ca>; Mon, 27 Jan 1997 12:13:13 GMT Received: from Pewald.ctaz.com (ppp64-lhc.ctaz.com []) by ctaz.com (8.7.5/8.7.5) with SMTP id FAA28260 for <a-infos@tao.ca>; Mon, 27 Jan 1997 05:13:45 -0700 (MST) Message-Id: <> X-Sender: ewald@ctaz.com X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Light Version 1.5.4 (32) Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 05:13:53 -0700 To: a-infos@tao.ca From: Ewald <ewald@ctaz.com> Subject: (en) Borders Books outlet unionizes Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: bulk Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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----------Forwarded Message---------------- Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 02:45:02 -0800 (PST) From: rosetree@popmail.mcs.net (Lew Rosenbaum)

The following article from the "Culture Under Fire" column of the January "People's Tribune" monthly newspaper gives another perspective to the ongoing battle on the Borders front. Two aspects in particular have not been touched on: one is the specific information and update on the organizing drive in Chicago; but perhaps more significant is the analysis that situates the position of the Borders workers (and other retail workers) in the context of the electronic revolution and the transformation of corporate capitalism. As always, I'm interested in any response you might have to this addition to the Borders War.


Borders Books outlet unionizes; battle with company gets rough

By Scott Pfeiffer

CHICAGO -- Retail workers at the Borders Books in Lincoln Park here have voted in a union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881. They are the first to get that far in an organizing drive that has the potential to shake things up throughout the chain.

At the recently opened Borders, worker dissatisfaction with less-than-livable wages was aggravated when the yearly pay raise was announced. The 4.5 percent raise was down from the 5 percent which Borders employees had received the two previous years, which, in turn, was down from 6 percent the year before that. Greg Popek, an employee who was instrumental in bringing in the UFCW, points out that when inflation is factored in, the swindle becomes even more pronounced.

Employee unrest was further fueled when it was announced they were to be integrated with the health plan covering employees of Waldenbooks, which is owned by Borders. Workers thought it not unreasonable to expect a reduced-rates deal, since such a large number of people had been brought into the plan. If such a deal was struck, it wasn't passed on to workers. Instead, premiums went up 23 percent for the employee and as much as 73 percent for smokers.

As with managed-care health systems, cutting costs is ultimately the No. 1 priority for the folks at Borders' corporate headquarters.

Unless you're on the management track, they don't necessarily want you around for the duration. A long-term staff gets raises and accrues benefits: it costs more. In fact, the recently issued Borders employee handbook features an "at-will" policy emphasizing that workers can be fired at management's whim. UFCW representative Sergio Monterrubio characterizes this as a "slap in their [workers'] faces."

In today's high-tech global economy, major chains like Borders (and, increasingly, independent stores as well) must subordinate everything to profit. Books-by-mail and home-shopping TV networks are among the emerging new ways to shop that, in the long run, could threaten retail chains' very existence. The nature of publishing is also changing due to the bottom-line dictates of the market.

It seems clear that the introduction of new electronic technology into the retail market means that the struggles of retail workers are only beginning.

At present, Borders Books is not exactly hurting for resources. They've recently gone public with stock offerings; annual revenues are over $1.7 billion; the only book chain more gigantic is Barnes and Noble. According to the Industrial Workers of the World's Jon Bekken, last year Borders' two top executives each made $790,000 and held Borders stock worth more than $28 million. Yet they still won't give anything up.

Management did everything they could to stamp out the drive at the Lincoln Park store. Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler and Krupman, a prominent union-busting law firm whose lawyers bill themselves as "industrial psychologists," was retained. This firm's notable achievements include destroying organizing drives at nursing homes primarily staffed by minority women.

Sparks are flying in other cities. Borders workers are poised to vote on unionizing in Des Moines, Iowa, and in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Miriam Fried, a union-minded Borders employee in Philadelphia, was canned, and after author and filmmaker Michael Moore allowed her to speak at a Borders book-signing appearance, the chain banned the book tour.

In response to Fried's firing, a "Boycott Borders" campaign has been endorsed by the likes of the Industrial Workers of the World, Pride At Work, Jobs with Justice, the National Writers Union, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Noam Chomsky.

On November 18, the company was presented with the UFCW's contract proposal, which, among other things, called for a disciplinary procedure and for better health benefits. Negotiations probably won't begin until January, if then. The company's position is they don't have to negotiate. Monterrubio indicates that the boycott could put pressure on the company during negotiations, and might have the effect of forcing them to come to the table in the first place.

The "hip liberal" mask being ripped from Borders' corporate visage is also being torn off Tower Records. Retail workers at Tower are trying to do the same thing as their book-selling peers and are also facing sophisticated anti-union forces. Books and music are necessities of life. Those who help distribute and disseminate our culture need support in their ongoing fight for security and decent treatment.

To tell Borders you won't shop there until they start respecting workers' right to organize, contact Richard Flanagan, President, 311 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104. Phone 1-800-644-7733, or e-mail Borders spokesman Peter Blackshear at pblacksh@borders.com.

__________________________________________________________________________ "Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. They do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

--Rudolf Rocker "Anarcho-Syndicalism", 1938 (Pluto Press, London, 1989) __________________________________________________________________________


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