After nearly a year of negotiations, employees at Borders Books
& Music began a strike Saturday that they say will last until
store management complies with their demands.

Kate Green
Employees strike outside Borders Books & Music on East Liberty Street on Saturday. Workers are dissatisfied with inadequate wages and benefits. (CURTIS HILLER/ Daily)

Instead of going to work Saturday morning, employees picketed at
the East Liberty Street storefront along with members of United
Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 Union, members of the Ann
Arbor community and University students. Picketing began at about
8:30 a.m., half an hour before the store’s opening. At almost
any time on Saturday and Sunday, about 50 to 100 picketers walked
in front of Borders.

Susan Fawcett, an Art and Design junior, said she joined the
picket line because she supports the strike and is upset with the
low wages and benefits the workers receive. “I think
it’s really important, especially in a university town where
college students are desperate. They’re easy to take
advantage of.”

Hal Brannan, an 18-year employee at the store, said Borders has
begun treating its employees unfairly only within the last few
years. “The reason we unionized is because the company has
changed. We accept change, but it isn’t change for the good.
The focus has shifted to shareholder value in the stock market and
away from employees and customers,” he said.

Picketers carried signs and chanted, intending to prevent people
from entering the store. Many passing cars honked in support of the
union, and picketers cheered in response. Security guards stood at
the entrance to the store as a precaution.

Borders remained open Saturday and Sunday despite the strike.
“They brought over district managers, regional managers. They
asked people from other stores to come in to work. They’re
probably overstaffed today, which is a change because we’re
usually understaffed,” said Borders employee Heidi
Sherman.

But business was slow, she said. “We’ve effectively
shut the store down.”

“There’s been a few people going in, but not too
many,” said UFCW union member Tom Rekuc.

Paula Perry of Detroit was among the customers who crossed
picket lines to shop at Borders on Saturday. She said she was
bothered by the picketers, but added, “If they feel like
they’re not getting paid right, then I support
them.”

“We’ll be out here until we get a fair and just
contract,” Rekuc said. He also said that the picketers will
protest during all open store hours.

Borders spokeswoman Anne Roman said there has been no
communication between strikers and Borders management since the
strike began. “We remain open to negotiating at any time with
the union and would love to resolve this quickly.”

“I see a lot of the rhetoric about the company not
negotiating and I think it’s really important that we set the
record straight on that,” Roman added.

Brannan said picketing will not be limited to the Liberty Street
store. “We’re going to be out here every day, and any
place Borders does business is not off limits (for
protesting).” Brannan said they plan to protest at the
Arborland and Birmingham locations as well as at the store’s
corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor. He said they will also protest
at the grand opening of a new Detroit Borders location today.

Roman said if protests do take place at other locations and at
headquarters, Borders will handle the situation similarly to how
they are handling it at the Liberty Street store. “Should
that occur, people have a legal right to protest, and as long as
they are abiding by what the laws are … then it’s
their right to make that protest.”

Much to the dismay of many picketers, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr
crossed the picket line on Saturday, said Irfan Nooruddin, a former
Graduate Employees Organization member and supporter of the
strike.

“I’m a longtime Michigan football fan … I
always believed Lloyd Carr really believed in teaching young people
about principles and values. I was raised to believe that crossing
a picket line was morally wrong, and I’m disappointed that he
was able to do it so easily this morning,” Nooruddin
said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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