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8.3.1 What happened with Borders Bookstore: Joe "Borders" Gable And Me


This article is from the Michael Moore FAQ, by Edward Champion edchamp@slip.net with numerous contributions by others.

8.3.1 What happened with Borders Bookstore: Joe "Borders" Gable And Me

I remember meeting Joe Gable, the manager of the original Borders
store in Ann Arbor on the street last summer. He had heard that I had
learned of their union troubles and he wanted to set me straight. He
proceeded to attack Miriam Fried, the woman Borders had fired in
Philadelphia, with such aggression that I was sort of taken aback by his
anger toward her and the union. That venom is still present in his letter
"Michael & Me" in which he calls her "the martyred poster girl of the
union organizers." She is not a "girl" and Joe, you are obviously no
friend to the working woman or man. In fact, as I understand it, your own
workers in your Ann Arbor store had organized a union election which, I am
told, so upset you out that you threatened to resign if they voted in the
union. Because they felt so sorry for you, they postponed the election
until next year. You, though, in the meantime, left the store and have
become part of management at Borders corporate headquarters! Didn't you
feel a responsibility to explain to the readers of your letter these
events as they transpired?

So let's deal with the untruths and misleading statements in your

1) The vice-president of human relations did, in fact, give me
permission to bring the Philadelphia protesters inside the store. I felt
bad for you, reading that line you wrote, "Anne Kubek had never given
Michael permission to bring the picketers inside the store." Of course,
you had no idea that I FILMED my conversation with her when she gave me
that explicit permission. Oops!

2) I have never urged people to boycott Borders. That is a bald-faced
lie and you know it. In fact, I have encouraged people to buy the book at
Borders (and talk union!). I did so in my Nation column and in the New
York Times. If I had "trashed Borders and urged people to buy their books
somewhere else" in Philly, why did I then sit there for 2 and 1/2 hours
signing and selling over 200 books? Tell the truth.

3) You were right in describing Borders attitude toward me when I
showed up at your World Trade Center store in Manhattan by stating "word
of this circus performance (BTW, workers trying to organize representation
for themselves is not a "circus performance", unless you think of them as
trained monkeys) raised legitimate security concerns..." But then you put
the blame on the "Port Authority" for shutting my talk down! No one
believes this, Joe! The manager of that store told me very clearly (and
there were witnesses) that "the commotion you caused in Philly" is not
going to happen here "and you are not going to speak." All this, minutes
before I'm supposed to speak to the hundreds who had gathered there.

If, in fact, you and the "Port Authority" were worried about "large
crowds in a small second floor area", then why did you have the Duchess of
York, Sarah Ferguson, a member of the Royal Family and a target of the IRA
in that same exact store (the terrorist-bombed World Trade Center) just
nine weeks after I was considered such a "security risk." Make up a better
story next time you're going to lie!! :>>>)

4) You were not in Des Moines the night I was there (just as you
weren't in Philly or Manhattan), so how do you know what took place?
Again, you forget that I had my camera crew with me and filmed the whole
event! The Des Moines Borders workers first slipped me an anonymous note
telling me they were not allowed to work the book table at my event and
then they met me out in the parking lot later that night to tell me their
plight. They had been paying into your corporate HMO for over six months
-- and were being refused health care! Borders picked an HMO that HAD NO
DOCTOR IN DES MOINES!! No wonder people start unions! Before they left,
they told me that they were going to call a meeting the next night to see
if there was interest in forming a union. I wished them well (and later
pledged money to their cause). Yesterday, at 4:00pm, they held their union
election at the Borders in Des Moines -- and the union won!

I feel bad, Joe, that you had to attack me so personally, calling me
names -- I have never done that to any Borders executive through this
whole conflict. But that is the refuge of one who doesn't have the facts
or the truth on his side, so I understand your malice. I love how you
blame the AFL-CIO for being behind this big, sinister plot to unionize
your stores and other service workers. The AFL-CIO, until recently,
couldn't organize their way out of a paper bag. If you get anything out of
this letter, please understand this: YOU, and other corporations like you,
are organizing the workers. By not paying a liveable wage, by promising
benefits and not delivering --- you have brought this on yourself. I wish
I could take credit for it, but the credit is all yours.

I did have a good meeting with the President of Borders two weeks ago
and I hope something will be resolved shortly. I think he knows the
mistakes that have taken place here. I had tried for two months to resolve
this quietly and only went public after the event in Ft. Lauderdale was
canceled. I look forward to speaking and signing at Borders in the future.
But I will never remain silent when I see something happening that I think
is wrong, even if it is my favorite hometown bookstore doing it, and even
if they are selling a zillion of my books. When it comes down to commerce
vs. conscience, well, it's one thing the nuns taught me right.

Michael Moore
Author, "Downsize This"
11 December 1996

P.S. Please feel free to pass this on to others who may have received
Joe's letter. I am also asking Borders to post this in their stores and on
their web site as they did with Joe's.


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