Around 6:30 p.m. Friday, the following announcement was read over the East Liberty Borders Books public address system: “Attention Borders staff, the time is now 51 to four.” Staff members understood the announcement meant 51 Borders workers voted to join forces with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 876, while four workers opposed union representation.

Last month, several flyers posted outside the store read, “Why have the employees of Borders Books at 612 E. Liberty formed a union? Eroding benefits, layoffs and demotions, (and) huge cuts in payroll that have affected our staffing level tremendously.”

Workers’ complaints also include poor job security, low salary increases, high turnover rate and poor attitudes in management.But Borders management say that they take employee concerns seriously and encourage open and direct communication. They do not believe union representation is necessary.

Borders operates over 390 Borders stores domestically, 800 Waldenbooks stores, 29 international Borders stores and 37 stores in the United Kingdom The store in Ann Arbor was the first opened. So far, only one Borders store, in Minneapolis, has unionized. In the ’90s, three stores had contracts negotiated by the UFCW. But these contracts were not renewed.

After the announcement, the workers had an unofficial victory party at worker Dave Patt’s house.

“Everybody knows what (the party) is for, but nobody officially knows, kind of like the ‘the time is now 51 to four,” worker Brook Young said.

Young and fellow Borders worker Lyndsy Richards, who was excluded from the vote because she was a new worker, said they spotted several former workers in the store throughout the day. One of these workers had quit after he was demoted.

Young said that nobody knows who cast the opposing votes, but that there were rumors about who did. Six Borders stores have voted to unionize in the past, but none are currently under contract., the organizers’ web page, calls the victory “a lopsided margin that inspires renewed vigor in the Borders union campaign.”

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