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I AM TROUBLED BY NORA FitzGerald’s article regarding the union organizing campaign at Politics and Prose (“The War Between the Stacks,” The District Line, 12/1). I am most disturbed by the fact that the Washington City Paper conveniently chose to print the story a mere one week before the union election. The article demonstrates that the City Paper’s views continue to be “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
The “inch deep” quote was originally made by an astute observer who watched numerous trendy, neoliberal residents of Berkeley, Calif., cross a picket line in order to purchase organically correct produce. It did not matter that the produce was farmed using migrant labor working for slave wages. FitzGerald’s article invokes similar images.
Apparently to the dismay of the City Paper, our labor laws grant employees the right to self-organization. As FitzGerald cynically commented, in a union election “simple majority rules.” My, what an undemocratic idea! How politically incorrect. Imagine, a group of employees voting to have union representation at the workplace. What a blow to the magnanimous owners who even provide health care to their employees. What else could these people want? Excuse me, Miss, there is not enough cinnamon in my latte.
It is time for persons such as FitzGerald and the “philosophically pro-union” owners of Politics and Prose to realize that free trade unions and workplace democracy are among the most basic tenets of any civilized society. Instead of huddling with their lawyers and wondering how a union could “invade” their bookstore, the owners of Politics and Prose should understand that unions are not just for Safeway or General Motors. Unions are for employees, regardless of the employer. Indeed, 25 of 37 employees of Politics and Prose already indicated their desire for representation by signing cards authorizing the union to represent them. Instead of expressing self-pity, the owners of the store should focus their energies on ways to work cooperatively with the union so that their employees truly feel as if they have a voice in the workplace.
Instead, the store has chosen to fight the employees and hopes management “wins” the election by defeating the union. The City Paper should be ashamed of itself for engaging in a blatant attempt to influence the outcome of the election. The union election should be influenced by what the employees want, not by with whom the City Paper’s elite chooses to identify. Maybe, just maybe, if the union wins the election, Politics and Prose’s tony customers will understand that putting a pro-union bumper sticker on their sleek foreign sports coupes would express their support for a true liberal cause.