Uptown Borders employees ratify union contract

Workers at the Uptown Borders bookstore, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., voted Nov. 14 to ratify a union contract with Borders Group, Inc. That makes the local Borders the Michigan-based chain's second outlet with a union contract, say worker representatives. The first is in Michigan.

Uptown workers voted to unionize in October 2002, seeking a pay hike and have worked with organizers at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 789. The workers rejected a company contract offer in September 2003 but ratified the new deal on a 9-5 vote.

The contract does not include a wage increase; it does, however, include labor management committees, grievance and arbitration processes, as well as establishing seniority rights for shift scheduling and a "just cause" termination clause. The deal also gives part-time workers holiday pay without the company-required 18-hour-per-week minimum, said Borders Group spokeswoman Anne Roman.

Roman said the company is "pleased that the contract is ratified," because it meets with the objectives to treat employees equally while allowing Borders to remain a competitive retailer.

Montana Johnson, an Uptown Borders worker, calls the contract "a first step in protecting our rights, and it does improve our conditions somewhat."

Johnson acknowledges that there's no pay hike but said the contract is up for renegotiation in two years. Roman said she couldn't comment on future negotiations.

UFCW Organizer Bernie Hesse said the ratification vote marked the end of an "historic two-year struggle." He said its success has spurred unionizing efforts among workers in similar businesses.

Hesse said while some employees voted against the contract, he sees the potential for growth, saying, "We're going to build on this."