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March 25, 1979 - Image 16

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-25
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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Page 4-Sunday, March 25, 1979-The Michigan Daily

'U'

Cellar's

battle to

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Marc
keep collectivism bein e couni

B ETWEEEN THE University Cellar's
aisles of books, pens, calculators, back-
backs, greeting cards, vitamins, posters,
and records, a tense calni has settled.
Housed in a corner in the basement of the Mich-
igan Union, the Cellar has provided University
students with discounts on books and supplies for
almost a decade. The people who work there are
students, or have been students, and are therefore
concerned with the service the Cellar provides.
Carefully hand-lettered signs scattered throughout
the departments symbolize the employees' com-
mitment to the store. But lately an undertone of
uneasiness has tinged the Cellar's working con-
ditions.
An uncomfortable schism exists between em-
ployees and management, the product of conflicting
theories about the way the store should be operated.
People on both sides of the split are convinced that
their own way is the most efficient and viable
method to serve the University community. The
ideologies and personalities differ widely, but the
two factions have a common goal: to create the best
University Cellar possible.
Two issues stand out amid numerous sidelights
surrounding the on-going controversy: One is the
management's desire to create a hierarchical job
structure within the store, a concept that Cellar
employees vehemently oppose; the other is a void in
communiction, which has compounded issues and
fostered a sense of mistrust in a situation where
faith is sorely needed.
The characters in the conflict are many, the
issues complex, and the situation is shrouded in an
air of alienation and frustration. Employees agree
that working conditions at the Cellar are tense. That
tension is not always obvious to Cellar patrons. But
for the employees, the threat of a structure that
would eliminate the workers' traditional role in
decision-making has colored their conversation,
relationships with each fiber and management, and
even one employee's dre ms. For the management,
a structure is necessary to maintain a line of
accountability, which it claims the store currently
lacks.
"It's been a tradition among all the em-
ployees-the work we do is work for the store. The
money we bring in is literally what runs the store.
There is a strong feeling we ought to be involved in
the store," explained Lucy Bjorklund, Cellar em-
ployee and secretary of Industrial Workers of the
Elizabeth Slowik is the Daily Features editor.

World (IWW) Local 60, which. represents Cellar
workers. That feeling is shared by both union and
non-union employees.
"A lot of non-union people want control over the
way they work. That runs throughout the store,"
added Bjorklund, a Cellar employee for three years.
The Cellar operates on a collective basis, with just
one manager and one assistant manager for the en-
tire store, although certain departments have opted
for elected managers. Workers provide input on
decision-making, including ordering; hiring, and
firing within departments. A hierarchical structure,
employees fear, will dissolve that input channel.
.But things just aren't getting done efficiently,
management claims, and a structure will ensure
that specific tasks are completed.

By Elizabeth Slowik

decision-making. The University Cellar Board of
Directors' decision to implement the new structure,
which was made minus worker input, was labelled
"despicable" and "a slap in the face" at the time
by several employees. Board members and:
management agree that they way in which the em-
ployees were notified lacked consideration.
"We realize our method wasn't right. We
probably didn't do it the best way," said literary
college sophomore Nelson Jacobsen, who is vice-
president of the board.
"The organization, the structure was announced
by the board," said Bradley. "And I think what was
most upsetting to the employees, I believe, was the
manner in which it was done. I don't think a lot of
people were entirely uncomfortably with what was
done." I
Calculator coordinator Lisa Blake, who is on the
IWW negotiating committee, called the Feb. 16
structure "the most herarchical chain of com-
mand-Tudor, John, two more very highly-paid
supervisory people, and then a whole bunch of un-
der supervisors-as much more structured as you
could possibly make it with only 7 employees, in
my opinion. They said, 'It will be implemented
within the week, from people within the store, and if
people within the store don't apply for that, in
another week we'll have people from outside in
those positions.' It was the most incredible, 'Take
that,' you know, 'you son-of-a-guns.' It was like
throwing down the gauntlet."
And the gauntlet was readily accepted by union
membes. The following Monday, 31 Cellar workers
called in sick, and on Tuesday all employees but 25
were sick, according to Blake. Employees also
Photos by
Maureen O'Malley
signed a written response opposing the proposed
implementation of the plan.
"For some reason, it seems like 35 people got sick
on Monday," said cashier coordinator Kevin Wat-
son. "I don't know how it happened, but we all g

'U' Cellar manager Tudor Bradley
"The lack of organization or structure within the
store was probably something that's been a concern
of the board for some time," said Tudor Bradley,
manager of the Cellar since 1977..
"It's hard to have 80 people know enough about
the management of the organization to be totally
responsible for the management of the
organization," said assistant manager John. Sap-
pington. "That's not what they're hired for."
On Feb. 16 a notice was posted in the Cellar
outlining a hierarchical structure which called for
two more assistant managers and four department
supervisors to absorb current worker authority in

sick together. I was sick, so I called in. And evn
thati didn't demonstrate to them how strongly we
feel about this issue."
"There was a pretty strong indication of union
solidarity a couple of weeks ago with the sick-ins,"
commented Fred Chase, used book buyer and
another member of the union bargaining team.
Cellar employees, divided this past winter by the
union drive, have become more cohesive during the
last few weeks, according to Chase.
"I'm not convinced that there's a great deal of
conflict between the union and the non-union
workers," Chase said. "We're all looking for some
kind of structure that's going to involve workers in
decision-making. They may hve some
disagreements about what is the ideal structure, but
we're all leaning towards that goal. There is a fair^
amount of tension. I think everybody would like to
see this whole thing resolved."
"Myself, I see the union as much interference as
management in operation, how things get done,"
said non-union employee John Hickox. "They can
be as much an extra thing to deal with day-to-day as
management. With the coming of the union, we've
lost the ability to deal directly with management.
I'd like to see a situation where people have control
over their work situation."
Yet an implicit rift exists among employees.
Those who sympathize with management, such as
Bruce Weinberg of the records department, are
viewed with suspicion by union members. "Most
people in the store don't think too much of where
I'm coming from," admitted Weinberg, a nine-yer
Cellar veteran whose salt-and-pepper hair belies his
30 years.
L ISA BLAKE says she is relieved when she is
greeted by a "good morning" instead of blank
stares or under-the-breath comments. Working at
the Cellar during the current crisis has been a strain
for Blake.,
"In the last two days I've had two tranquilizers,
six aspirin, and one APC-3, a pain killer. I get
migraine headaches from the tension," explained
Blake, as she released her long dark hair from the
clip which held it back. "Working there is tense.
And it's been personally nasty. I'm surprised, you
know, subtle nastiness. That makes me really
unhappy."
"The situation is fairly tense right now," added
Bjorklund. "But, on the other hand, for the time I've
been here, the situation has always been tense. So it
may be just a matter of degree. . . There is a certain
drawing of the lines where people won't talk to each
other about the union situation. But people are still
working together. Probably the best example is the
records department, where two of the four people in
that department are on negotiating teams, one on
each side."
Part of the reason for the uneasy situation at the
Cellar is the gap in the communications network,
which assistant manager John Sappington said he
hopes will be filled by a new strucutre.
Idealistically, Sappington noted, "One individual
forms the communications link in a network. And
they are responsible for knowing what's going on
with people who are working in their general area.
as well as responsible for knowing how that general
area fits into the total picture of what's needed in
the store. And their continuity of information in
communications is necessary. And I find it impossible
for the group to maintain that without focusing on
an individual.
"We tried to work with the situation," Sappington
continued. "We tried for a long time to work with
that. There's just an inability to see why the
manager wants something, and if the manager's not
able to communicate to them, or prove with figures
and facts that this is the way to go, then they just sit
back and say, 'Oh, why I'm not gonna do that.' So
there's no responsibility, taken. The responsibility
diffuses."
A Winter 1978 study conducted by graduate
students and Professor lBJ. White of the Graduate

School of Business confirms the kinks in Cellar
communiction lines. The survey, commonly known
as the White Report, states that "an aggregate of
the data shows there is a great deal of dissatisfac-
tion with communication within the U-Cellar.
Problems here have been compounded by growth
.and change . . . Addressing this issue of com-
munication flow between management and the
workers and between the Board and workers in an
open, two-way process would be a first step toward
establishing the trust that is apparently lacking
now. An analysis of the data collected from the em-
ployees shows that only 13 per cent agree with the"
statement that co-workers can't be trusted.
However, 79 per cent agree that the Board can't be

1971, on the premise that he would provide a liason
between employees and management and the
board.
While Bradley and Sappington are opposite in ap-
pearance, their philosophies on the Cellar are sur-
prisingly similar. Bradley is in his 50s. a man of
medium height whose concept of management is as
disparate to his employees' as his age. What may be
Bradley's only adaptation to Cellar style is his
switch from the three-piece suit of the conventional
manager to a simple shirt and sweater.
O N THE other hand, Sappington is lanky, his
blond hair tied in a pony tail which hangs to the
middle of his back. He wears blue jeans, as do many
who work at the Cellar, but his conversion to
Bradley's views have set him apart. He has
worked at the Cellar since 1972.
Bradley spent 25 yers with the W.T. Grant com-
pany, a chain of discount department stores. At
Grant, Bradley progressed through a managerial
system similar to otherlarge department stores. He
was hired at the Cellar by a committee consisting of

three employees and three
Board of Directors.
Much of the blame for the
has been tossed on Bradley
can recant a tale of Bradley
munication, usually culmin
dings. and hurt feelings. A
tripped over many liberal 'U
"I have no personal hos
said Chase. "I think he's ma
store in ways that are not in
store. I think he's an old-fa
new-fashioned store; that v
don't relate to his experience
Most employees reiterate
some with more bitterness t
the initial adjustment peri
business after a shift in man
possible cause for the resent
Others are more harsh in the
"People just don't think he
cashier Watson. "Tudor does
store. Basically all he can
along the lines of a 'textbook
... It's just the way he is.
with people at all; outside
whatnot. Compared to the
had before Tudor came in, it
take over. The compar
ridiculous."
Watson and others noted
pick out certain employees
and depend on them to relay
of the workers. Whether a sii
tion skills or the residue fror
ventional management, this
alienated many Cellar emplo
"He's pulled out departme
wants to relate to as de
claimed Chase, "whether tl
as such or not. That's bee
some people who don't vie
in a managerial role, wh(
- authority for hiring and firin
As Bradley has had prod
employees, so has Sappingt
See CELLAR

' t - - .t at. . .
'ti I

'The,&U'"Ce'la,Boa jftDir4eferdiscusses the aogoing controversy about Cellar management.

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