Borders' proposal declined by union

BY
BY ADAM ROSEN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 7, 2003

The employee union at Borders Books in Ann Arbor voted overwhelmingly to reject the contract offered them by Borders management, reflecting that the dispute between the company and its employees is far from being resolved.

Janna Hutz
An employee works her shift at Borders Books on East Liberty Street yesterday. Borders employees recently turned down the contract offered to their union by management. (JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily)

"This contract gave us absolutely nothing," a Borders store employee said. The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, added that union demands such as a living wage, job security and security of benefits were not met by the proposed contract.

The Borders employee union, organized last December as part of the United Food and Commercial Workers labor union, defeated the contract Sunday night by a vote of 27 to 1, with two abstentions.

To further their cause, union members will continue to press its case and try to get the community to pressure Borders back to the negotiating table, another anonymous Borders store employee said.

"Our (ultimate goal) is to get Borders to recognize it's in Borders' best interest to recognize the need of its employees to make a living," the employee added.

Borders spokeswoman Anne Roman said she feels Borders employees were presented with a fair contract.

Roman added that Borders has conducted internal surveys of Borders employees across the country, and has found that "the vast majority of all Borders employees are satisfied with their pay and benefits."

But Mark Dilley, a member of the pro-employee organization Borders Readers United, said his group supports the union's decisions.

"(This dispute) isn't just about money and respect, it is about keeping this a community store," Dilley said.

BRU has staged several demonstrations outside of the Borders store on East Liberty Street for the past few weeks, passing out leaflets, petitioning customers and picketing to bring attention to their cause.

"The response from the public has been overwhelmingly supportive," Dilley added.

The first Borders store employee interviewed said the decision in December to form a union was a last resort after negotiations broke down between the employees and Borders management. "Unionizing is a message to the company that they need to treat employees well, or we'll seek protection through a union," she added.

Roman said she feels it is no coincidence that only two of the 425 Borders stores in the country are unionized - the stores in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis. "Why? I think we are a good employer, and a great place to work," Roman said.

But the Borders store employee had a different explanation for this: "When you try to organize, you know that your career with Borders is over. I'm still working here - barely," she said.

But Roman said Borders has not taken any measures to discourage unionization of its employees, and Borders has no policies preventing it from hiring union members.