This site is a static archive. Visit the current IWW website at ▸
Skip to main content

IWW Informational Pickets at Borders 1996-98

Following the illegal firing of FW Miriam Fried for organizing at the Borders in Philadelphia, various IWW branches conducted pickets at various Borders stores throughout the world. Here is a selected listing of these pickets in alphabetical order.

Baltimore - July 20, 1996

The nation's second largest retail book chain continued to suffer from labor strife as their Townson, Maryland location was picketed by over 25 members of an ad-hoc group identified as Friends Of Borders Workers today. The picket is the latest in a natio nwide series od protests over the firing of union organizer Miriam Fried of the Philadelphia Industrial Workers of the World. The protesters contend that Ms. Fried was fired for her union organizing activities in the wake of a narrow IWW loss at the Cent er City Borders location.

Demonstrators picketed the main entrance and distributed literature at an additional entrance, disrupting business activities for much of the afternoon. One group of three customers, after reading the FOBW leaflet debated whether they should enter. "I can't, I'm in a union," one said, and the three walked away. Another woman asked, "Can't I just go in to get an "Alternative" (a free local gay newspaper)?" When informed of the option of getting it at an independent bookstore, she agreed and joined the picket. In spite of repeated threats from store security, who fumed outside the store entrance while shoplifters had free reign inside, the protesters were unmoved. The store management called the police twice, but they declined to make any arrests o r bother the demonstrators.

The demonstration, timed to coincide with the beginning of National Independent Bookstore Week, not only stressed the concerns of Borders workers, but also those of local bookstores who feel Borders is more concerned with corporate profits than serving th a community. Protesters distributed leaflets describing the details of Miriam Fried's case, Borders employee and management policies, and listing independent book stores where patrons might shop instead of Borders. Although Borders president Richard Fla nagan has already felt compelled to respaon to union contentions, the Friends Of Borders Workers presented a point-by-point refutation of his assertions. One member of the FOBW declared, "We will continue to agitate until the pig capitalist system, repre sented in this case by Borders, shows respect for the workers and reinstates Miriam Fried!"

Boston - 1996-97

Leafletting in Peabody

Four Wobs hit the Peabody store August 10th, leafleted all the cars in the parking lot while two worked inside. The "Invitation To Borders Workers" was handed out to people wearing tags, while "Borders Unfair" were distributed generally. It took management quite a while to respond. All four of the Wobs were able to leaflet in the store for a short time until one tried to hand a leaflet to a manger. "I should have known by his weaselly expression," he says.

Leafletting in downtown Boston

Picketing continues at the downtown Boston Borders, and three Wobblies visited the store in suburban Needham July 20th, distributing leaflets for half an hour before being ejected from the mall. The two distributing leaflets to cars ran out of cars. The Fellow Worker inside the store offered leaflets to all of the customers in the store, as well as most of the workers before inadvertantly offering one to an assistant manager who took it, called a higher-up, and informed him that he would have to leave the mall. Leafleting continued at the store entrance (well inside the mall) for 10 minutes until mall security arrived. Approximately 400 leaflets were distributed.

(Taken from an article in the Industrial Worker, September, 1996.)

And Some Past Action in Boston...

Picketting in downtown Boston

We arrived at the downtown Borders June 17th with 1,000 leaflets hot off the photocopier, entered the store and asked to speak to the manager. When we explained that we were giving him an opportunity to to take a stand against Borders' illegal union busting, he called in a higher manager. She insisted that whether Philadelphia Borders fired union activists or not was none of her concern. So we set out to make it her concern, and began picketing. (We later heard from Philadelphia that she spent quite some time on the phone asking why they were causing her grief.)

We continued almost-daily picketing through July 11th, usually with two or three wobs (we do have to work for a living, after all, and the best time to leaflet that store seems to be from 11 am to 2:30 pm), but with a larger crew on evenings and Saturdays. Two Wobbly folksingers joined us one evening and we sang labor songs on the line. We've distributed some 7,000 leaflets to date and turned away scores of customers. We will continue leafletting a few times a week and are hoping to broaden our horizons to the suburban Borders that encircle the city (though few of them will have such ideal picketing facilities - a single entrance on one of the busiest corners in the city, fronted by a huge public sidewalk).

Most people have been sympathetic, though a few confused the IWW with the bureaucratic monstrosities that pass for unions in the boss press. Even they were generally impressed when we explained that we were out here - and at Borders locations across the country - as volunteers, acting from the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.


(Taken from an article in The Industrial Worker, August, 1997

Honolulu - August 1996

Nine members of the O'ahu General Membership Branch descended on the Honolulu Borders at 10 am on June 21st. Six of us entered the store armed with large quantities of a flyer "IWW Supports Borders Workers" and our just updated GMB pamphlet, " Don't Mourn, Organize!". As planned, we split in all directions, three upstairs, three down, and started handing out copies of both to every Borders employee we could find, and to lots of customers, with emphasis on the employees.

We had assumed all their store managers would have been alerted to the possibility of a visit from the Wobs and told what to do, so we had expected a maximum of five minutes before managers realized it was us and started shooting. In fact, they seemed to tally unprepared and most workers were fairly receptive once they realized we were "on their side," "here to support them in their struggle," etc. We had covered every (visible) employee and most customers in the store comfortably before a rather nervous -looking junior manager intervened. As planned, we then regrouped in the street. Two members stayed outside the main Borders entrance inside the mall giving leaflets to folks enetering, and collecting names for a petition to be sent to Borders HQ.

The rest of us showed off our fine red and black O'ahu GMB banner and large signs on the sidewalk just outside the mall entrance. The signs had large, eye-catching black sabo-cats on a bright yellow background and such slogans as "IWW Supports Borders Wo rkers," "Stop Borders Union-busting," and "Reinstate Miriam Fried." The reception was generally good.


(Taken from an article in The Industrial Worker, August, 1996)

Lawrence, Kansas - December 18, 1997

pickets and window decoration

e-mail: "After a sucessful practice run with the downtown, and with Detroit FWs in mind, tonight the Opulent Pig hit the streets- including the windows of our newly biult, and recently picketed Borders Bookstore. Creating Solidarity among us, as women and as workers, we enjoyed the evening to say the least...and tomarrow being a big shopping day (finals were over today, and this weekend the students go home for the break- only tomarrow left to shop...) we feel a few people will become a little more educated after tomarrow's sunrise."

Kentucky - September, 1996

Fellow Worker Lenny Flank leafletted a Waldenbooks (owned by Borders) in a Richmond mall while visiting his sister. "I was able to pass out about 75 or so leaflets before the store manager saw me and invited me to leave. The response tended two ways - students from East Kentucky University, right up the road, were very supportive, and I also talked to a couple of Mine Workers who were pleasantly surprised to hear that the old IWW was still around. Some of the local folks, however, took my leaflet, read it and acted as if they had just been handed a copy of the Communist Manifesto by old Karl himself."

(Taken from an article in The Industrial Worker, September, 1996)

Melbourne, Australia - November 7, 1998

On Saturday at 12noon, about 10 people met outside of the new Borders bookshop to protest about the working conditions of this new US bookstore chain, and their union busting reputation. In trendy, gentrified rich area of South Yarra; holding a protest was an unusual activity, and definitely made waves. The workers in surrounding shops could not recall seeing any union come there for far too long! We also leafletted workers in other small bookshops in area.

We had two leaflets to hand out - one specifically addressed to the workers. This leaflet also talked about what had happened to workers in the US stores. The other advertising the protest listed the address, telephone number (for those who could not attend to call up asking for a job, about wages, union membership!) and details on how to see the "union-busting manual" website, Borders global basis ie 200 super-stores, expanded to London, Singapore and now Melbourne, next?

All in all we had many favourable responses to the leaflets. Most people read the leaflets handed out,several talked to us, and appeared interested. We had many comments eg "well, I won't be shopping here again", "I didn't know this", "It's good to see an upsurge in socialist activity", "Keep it up", "I complained about this shop last week, because they didn't have many book with Australian content!" "Good on yas for leafletting".

One of our members met with a woman who was the public relations officers for the shop. She expressed concern that we had not notified the shop of our intention to picket the store. She explained that the workers conditions at Borders Melbourne had been set up differently to the US stores in that all workers had individual workplace agreements, with very special benefits. These special benefits were exactly explained. She also expressed her commitment to free speech and said she would have liked to hand out leaflets with us also(!). (I kid you not!)

We signed up one member for the group, and are now one short of becoming a branch. After a picnic, video showing, attending various local demonstrations eg against racism, by students protesting fees etc we are being seen as "doing something".

All in all a pretty favourable time!