Cleveland Public Library's Union Workers Preparing For Possible Strike

The exterior of Cleveland Public Library's Martin Luther King, Jr. branch
The contract between the Cleveland Public Library and the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 (SEIU) expired Dec. 31.. [ideastream file photo]
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The Cleveland Public Library (CPL) and union workers have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract and union members are moving forward to authorize a strike.

The last contract expired Dec. 31.

Service Employees International Union Local 1199 (SEIU) scheduled a strike authorization vote for Wednesday. That would give the union’s bargaining committee enough time to send a notice of intent to strike, according to a statement from an SEIU spokesperson.

CPL offered a renewal of the current contract late last year, but union members rejected it, said Cleveland Public Library Chief Talent Officer Lynn Sargi.

“We have tried since November to keep the dialogue going, establish dates to maintain that dialogue, and they have declined to do so,” Sargi said.

The current contract’s 1 percent wage increase is not offered in good faith, an SEIU spokesperson told ideastream in a Thursday email, but the union is “willing to meet sooner and more often to avoid any disruption of services.”

“We’ve been asking for bargaining dates since March and continue to be ready to meet,” according to the statement.

SEIU members are concerned about low staffing levels and safety, previously voicing opposition to a proposal that would have addressed staffing issues with library volunteers rather than union jobs.

The library has made changes to address security, said Tana Peckham, chief marketing and communications officer. Several safety and protective services officers are transitioning from part- to full-time this week, Peckham said, with plans to add more in the future.

“We obviously take safety and security of our patrons very seriously,” Peckham said.

Library safety concerns grew after a 19-year-old was found in the bathroom of CPL’s South Brooklyn Branch with multiple gunshot wounds earlier this year.

The library and SEIU collaborated to create a safety task force and revise its patron code of conduct, Peckham said, as well as evaluate its properties. Employees are also required to take active shooter training.

The union has yet to offer any solutions for additional issues, CPL’s Sargi said.

“SEIU really made no substantive proposals or recommendations around what they’ve portrayed as one of their primary concerns,” Sargi said.

The union said it has offered proposals to improve staffing and security, but the library “refused to have those conversations with [SEIU].”

Two more meetings to negotiate a contract are set for Jan. 17 and 23.

The library is also negotiating a contract with the union that represents its safety and security officers. That contract also ended Dec. 31.

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