(Fwd) Banned by Borders Bookstore - Michael Moore

Martha Cody-Valdez (mcody-valdez@descartes.ucsb.edu)
Wed, 20 Nov 1996 15:39:40 -0800

More Borders news!


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On November 9, as I (Michael Moore) write this, I was
supposed to have been at the Borders bookstore in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, speaking and signing copies
of my book "Downsize This! Random Threats from
an Unarmed American". It was to have been the final
stop of my forty-seven-city tour. But on October 30
I was told that the book-signing had been canceled.
The Fort Lauderdale
Borders had received a memo from its corporate
headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, banning me
from speaking or signing at any Borders store in the

When I was growing up in Michigan, the original
Borders was a store that actively championed free
expression. In fact, when I was publishing the
Michigan Voice, Borders would carry my paper when
other establishments would not. Now, Borders is a
huge nationwide chain, and its "liberal" views have
earned it the reputation as the "Ben & Jerry's of the
book chains."

So why was I banned from Borders? My book was
doing well. It has been on the New York Times
best-seller list for a month and was the number two
best-selling Random House book for the entire
Borders chain. I've been banned, I found out, because
I made the mistake of uttering a five-letter word, the
dirtiest word in all of corporate America -- "union."

Back in September, on the second day of my tour,
when I arrived at the Borders store in downtown
Philadelphia, I found nearly 100 people picketing the
place because Borders had fired a woman named
Miriam Fried. She had led a drive to organize workers
at the store into a union. The effort failed, and, a few
weeks later, Miriam was given the boot.

When I found this out I told the Borders people that I
have never crossed a picket line and would not cross
this one. I asked the demonstrators if they wanted to
take the protest inside. They thought it was a good

I had no desire to cause a ruckus, so I asked Borders
management if it was O.K. to allow the protesters in.
They said yes. So we all came into the store, I gave
my talk, I gave Miriam the microphone so she could
talk, everyone behaved themselves and it was a good
day all around -- including for Borders, which ended
up selling a lot of books, breaking the record for a
noontime author at that location. (The record had
been held by George Foreman, and I now like to tell
people only Ali and I have beaten Foreman.) I also
announced that I would donate all my royalties for the
day to help Miriam out.

Although Anne Kubek, Borders' corporate V.P. in
charge of labor relations, had approved my bringing
the protesters inside, upper management decided
that she had made a mistake -- and they were going
to take it out on me.

On the following Tuesday I was scheduled to speak at
the new Borders store in New York's World Trade
Center. When I arrived, I was met by two Borders
executives. They had flown in from Michigan just to
stop me from speaking. The executives, flanked by
two security guards, explained that I could come into
the store and sign books, but I would not be allowed to
talk to the people who had come to hear me. They
said that the "commotion" I had caused in Philly
raised "security concerns." I couldn't believe I was
being censored in a bookstore.

The Borders manager told the assembled crowd that I
would not be speaking because "Port Authority police
and fire marshals have banned all daytime gatherings
at Borders." When I heard this, I stepped forward and
told the people this was a lie, that I was forbidden to
speak because of my support for the workers in
Philly. Under protest, I signed the books of those who
stayed -- beneath a big banner celebrating "Banned
Books Week."

On October 13, I spoke to a large crowd in a Des
Moines auditorium. After the speech I went out front
and started signing books. "What store are these
from?" I innocently asked. "Oh, these are from the
local Borders," I was told. Well, I thought, they don't
mind if I make them some money -- as long as it's not
on their premises! Then someone slipped me an
anonymous note. It read: "We are employees of the
Des Moines Borders. We were told that we could not
work the book table tonight, that only management
was working the table, because they said they wanted
to 'protect us' from you."

An hour later, I went out to the parking lot and saw
some people standing there in the dark -- the
employees from the Des Moines Borders! They said
they were hiding out there because they had spotted
Borders' regional director with another man inside.
"He flew in to spy on you, or us, or both," they told me.
"He saw us so we may not have jobs on Monday."
(Bookstore employees afraid they might be fired for
attending a public speech at the Herbert Hoover High
School auditorium!) The executive had not introduced
himself to me -- or his colleague, who employees
believe is a unionbusting "consultant" hired by

I wished the workers well, and the next night they held
their first union meeting. The previous week, the
Borders store in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago
had become the first Borders in the country to vote in
a union (United Food and Commercial Workers).
Recently, workers in Des Moines signed enough
cards to hold a union election. It is a victory that
should inspire not only Borders workers but underpaid
employees everywhere.

That's why I am not in Fort Lauderdale as I write this.
Borders is "protecting" its workers from me.

Well, they're really going to need protection now. First,
I am donating my royalties from the next 1,000 sales
of Downsize This! to the organizing drive at Borders.
Second, I am asking each of you to support the
Borders workers in your city. Bring up the union when
you're in the store and thank that kid with the nose
ring and green hair for helping to revive the labor
movement in America.

Note to Borders Executives: If, after this column is
published, you retaliate by removing my book from
your shelves, or hiding it in the "humor" section or
underreporting its sales to the New York Times list,
I will come at you with everything I've got. You
sandbagged me in Philly, and the only decent way for
you to resolve this is to give Miriam Fried her job back
and let the workers form their union without
intimidation or harassment.


Luis J. Prat

University of California
Chemistry Dept.
Santa Barbara CA 93106
(805) 893-3295
(805) 893-4120 FAX


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