Amy writes: “Hey I keep reading about this Borders’ strike….where’s the first hand reporting???”
Well, that’s an excellent question.
Yes, workers at the original Borders, Borders No. 1, in downtown Ann Arbor, are on strike. They’re not trying to start a union, like they did in that Michael Moore movie — oh no, they already have a union. They’re striking over a lot of things, but the central complaint is — hold onto your hats — the big M. They want some more.
Well, so does everyone.
I admit to being mystified by some of this. Bookstore clerks want “a living wage” for the second-most expensive city in Michigan? I’m sure lots of people who work here would like that, including low-level instructors at the University of Michigan; the last story I read about grad-student instructors said they earn around $16K for their service, which puts my Russian teacher’s urgency to get his dissertation finished in a new light, I’d say.
The Borders workers say: If Borders is going to enjoy the reputation for service it has, and boy, it has both (service and the reputation), then management should pay their workers better. Admittedly, it is glorious to patronize a bookstore where the clerks not only know the inventory’s layout but the contents of the books themselves, where you can ask after an obscure title or author and not be greeted by a blank stare. If Best Buy is at one end of the scale (and we’ve all been to Best Buy), Borders No. 1 is the other.
“They have people working there who had advanced degrees,” an undergrad in one of my classes said. “Like, PhDs.”
I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Some of the people working the floor at Border’s have been there for more than 15 years. And why not? It’s a lovely bookstore in a lovely town, patronized by people who are generally smart and eager readers.
I admit: I crossed the picket line once. (I had an urgent need for Junie B. Jones books and no time to drive to the east side B&N.) The strike must be working, because the store was nearly empty, and that store is never nearly empty. The new clerks, replacements from other stores, were polite and eager to serve, and let me leave through a rear entrance to avoid the picket line again.
I didn’t feel very bad about it. While I’m sympathetic to anyone who wants a living wage, perhaps these highly educated clerks would do better in a library somewhere. Living wage for retail clerks is simply not going to happen in this economy.
You can read more at the strike blog. I’d welcome comments from long-time A2 residents who know more about the store’s history, and that means you, Anne.