Boycott Borders - New York IWW Leaflet, August 16, 1996
The IWW is picketing Borders stores in dozens of cities from here to Hawaii in solidarity with workers facing harassment, threats and intimidation from Borders managers determined to crush their organizing. December 15th marks six months of picketing to force Borders to respect basic workers rights.
An Excellent Bookseler Is Fired
Miriam Fried, a member of the IWW organizing committee, was fired June 15 by the general manager of the Borders in Center City Philadelphia in a transparent attempt to break the union organizing drive there.
Miriam built an outstanding record in the year she worked at Borders; on March 7 General Manager Dave Stewart wrote that "she provides a fine model for other booksellers with her work ethic and her book knowledge."
She was fired in the aftermath of a narrow union defeat in a National Labor Relations Board election, supposedly for challenging the store's rarely enforced check acceptance policy. Clearly she was actually fired for her efforts to win a union for Borders workers.
Borders has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on union-busting, flying top executives around the country; individually interrogating workers suspected of supporting the union; and prohibiting workers from speaking with union supporters even on their own time!
In July Borders disciplined IWW supporter Geri Harkin-Tucker (Chestnut Hill) for discussing the need for a union with other workers on her own time in a break room.
When workers at Borders' Lincoln Park (Chicago) store went union, Borders spokesman Jon Karvett said the chain keeps "open lines of communication from the CEO to the employees," going on to threaten workers' jobs:
"I think that the store in Lincoln Park will recognize that the union won't work. I think in a year you'll see the Lincoln Park store close."
$13,000 a Year
Borders Inc. is the second largest bookstore chain in the country, taking in more than $1.7 billion a year from its 1,100 stores operating under the Borders, Brentano's, Planet Music and Waldenbooks names.
Financial analysts point to Borders' well-trained, customer-oriented staff as the chain's chief asset. But Borders' workers start at just $6.25 an hour (some stores pay only $5.50) and have no say in the conditions of their work.
Borders workers across the country have approached the IWW and other unions to organize for better conditions. Borders management responded with captive meetings, a notorious union-busting attorney, intimidation, and now by firing union supporters.
But while Borders' highly skilled workers toil for $13,000 a year, in 1995 Borders' two top executives were paid $790,000 each, and held stock worth nearly $28 million (excluding long-term stock options). Borders could easily afford to pay its workers a living wage, but it would rather illegally fire those workers brave enough to stand up for their rights.
Banned by Borders
Best-selling author Michael Moore was banned from future appearances at Borders after he spoke out in support of Borders workers' right to organize and demanded that Miriam Fried be reinstated.
When Moore spoke in Iowa, Borders prohibited workers from attending. Borders cancelled an order for hundreds of books from III Publishing, a small California publisher, after learning that it supported Borders workers' rights.
Borders managers have threatened people across the country with arrest (and, in some cases, with physical attack) for distributing information about its illegal union-busting.
Noam Chomsky has written Borders demanding it reinstate Miriam Fried, while authors including Ward Churchhill, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Bruce Phillips have withdrawn from scheduled appearances to support workers' rights.
Organizations supporting the Borders Boycott campaign include the Philadelphia and Detroit chapters of the National Writers Union, Pride at Work, United University Professions (American Federation of Teachers P State University of New York), UFCW Local 1776, the Jewish Labor Committee of Philadelphia, and the president of AFSCME District Council 47.
Borders workers need your help. Please let Borders Inc. know you won't patronize their stores until they reinstate Miriam Fried and respect workers' right to organize.