Pickets cross Borders

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – “We will stay on strike until Borders [bookstores] bargains in good faith,” say striking workers affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 on the picket line at Borders’ number one corporate bookstore here. The workers have been on strike since Nov. 8 after 11 months of negotiations for a first contract fight with the storeowners.

Borders workers are asking customers not to purchase books at Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders.com for the duration of the strike. They are also asking consumers to call the store at (734) 477-1100 to express their support for the workers. Union members are asked to encourage their leaders to support this campaign actively.

A starting wage of $6.50 an hour, very high health insurance premiums and deductibles, and retirement packages that are generally unaffordable: these are some of the current economic conditions that bookstore workers face today. Workers have seen very little increase in wages over time, and management reserves the right to arbitrarily withdraw the few benefits they offer.

The striking workers have received a wide range of support from the local community. The Graduate Employees Organization, which represents graduate students at the nearby University of Michigan, has extended its support for the strikers. Other student organizations from the University of Michigan have frequented the picket lines, local peace organizations have encouraged their members to buy books elsewhere, and Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice given support. Other union members and religious and community groups can also be seen on the picket line regularly.

“The community support has been invaluable,” said the union spokesperson.

The author can be reached at jwendland@politicalaffairs.net.