From a flyer at the Borders Philadelphia Picket
The booksellers at Borders Bookshop in Center City Philadelphia waged a struggle in the spring of 1996 for union representation with the Industrial Workers of the World. After the company hired a notorious union-busting law firm and browbeat its employees for a month (sometimes in ways that blatantly violated Federal labor laws) the union was narrowly defeated (20-25) in a vote on March 27, 1996.
An Excellent Bookseller is Fired
Miriam Fried worked at Borders for about one year before she was wrongfully fired by General Manager Dave Stewart on June 15th. During her employment she was twice given excellent evaluations. Stewart himself wrote on March 7 that "she provides a fine model for other booksellers with her work ethic and her book knowledge." She was never written up or given warnings about anything. She was fired for discussing how certain cash register policies were never followed by staff or managers and how inconsistent management responses had frustrated her and her co-workers. Three days after terminating Miriam, management changed the cash register policy, exactly according to her recommendations.
The Real Reason: Union Activity
Miriam Fried was and is still one of the most committed and energetic union activists at Borders. She served on two union committees, wore an IWW button to work, wrote and signed union flyers, and raised embarrassing questions when the company's president addressed a staff meeting. Everyone on the union side saw Miriam as a model for her co-workers with her natural leadership and her personal courage. Now she has been vindictively fired so that others will be afraid to stand up for their rights as she did. The starting salary has remained $6.25/hr for over four years; an employee of three years often makes less than $7.00/hr. Meanwhile, in 1994, the three top executives of Borders received compensation packages ranging from $247,420 to $861,639, and held stock worth more than $22 million (not including long-term stock options).
A Co-worker's View:
[On the early claim that Miriam accepted a check not according to policy] "Miriam did NOT accept the check. She called a manager to approve it, as she always did, just like policy says. She was the only employee to my knowledge that consistently did what the policy asked for, which was to consult a manager whenever the address on the check did not match the address on the customer's ID. Miriam was so frustrated by this fact, combined with the fact that managers ALWAYS approved such checks, she went to Dave and asked why she should follow a policy that no one else does. Why even have a policy, when the managers don't enforce it? Dave responded by saying that "This isn't about others, this is about you." He then demanded to know if Miriam would continue to uphold the policy in the future. When Miriam said "I don't know, I just don't know." He fired her. Miriam NEVER actually violated the policy, yet she was fired (ostensibly) for doing saying that she might at some point in the future, and even this "threat" was made when she was very upset. To make matters worse, less than 72 hours later, Dave and the managers changed the policy. It is now not necessary to call a manager to approve a check if the names on the check and ID match, which was Miriam's complaint to begin with!"
From an Anonymous, Disgruntled ex-Borders Worker"
I am soooo happy to see this site.
I worked at Borders for about two years as a Special Orders Clerk for one of those years. I have known of instances where a General Manager opened a letter that was addressed to an employee. The letter was from a Phili employer and i assume the GM assumed it was union info. When she saw that it was she threw it away saying that "She (the employee that the letter was addressed to ) did not need to see this. I myself was fired after having never been written up and receiving numerous accolades from other managers.
I was fired because i complained about the way that mangers never followed the written procedures when asked to verify something by a lower employee.
I truly HATE Borders and make it a vow never to shop there. I haven't since my termination two years ago.
Soon i will be entering law school and hope someday to help end union busting actions like those of Borders Books. They are truly a shameful company. Keep up the fight!!
Sample Protest Letter - Noam Chomsky
To whom it may concern:
I am writing in connection with the firing of Miriam Fried from the Center City Borders bookstore. The information available indicates that she was fired on an unsustainable pretext, and that the real reasons had to do with her organizing activities for IWW. Needless to say, that would be entirely inappropriate and unacceptable. I hope that you will look into the matter, and act without delay to restore Ms. Fried's rights and to protect the right to organize generally.