It has been more than two years since a group of BCPL employees reached out to an IAM organizer. At the time, employees expressed a desire to be part of the decision making process and negotiate wages, hours and working conditions. There have been some specific incidents that point to why employees want a union. Do you, Remember When…
- Part-timers had no insurance during a pandemic. Access to an employer-provided healthcare benefit has been a concern for employees from the beginning. Living through the COVID pandemic, and now the Delta variant, has solidified this as an issue. Other library systems (union and nonunion) provide access to insurance for part-time employees, shouldn’t BCPL?
- Board of Trustees hired lobbyists. In February 2021, after openly claiming to support BCPL employees seeking rights to collectively bargain, BCPL Board of Trustees (BOT) held a closed door meeting to hire Cornerstone Government Affairs – a high-priced lobbying firm in Annapolis. Among other things, the BOT originally wanted the bill to contain language that required the union to provide the Director a list of supportive employees to prove interest. That language was rejected in the final version of the law. According to lobbying reports, BCPL Board paid Cornerstone over $8100 between February 2021 and June 2021. (learn more here).
- Loss of Paid Time Off. Without notice or negotiation, BCPL changed the way full-time employees earn paid time off. The change in calculation resulted in full-time employees earning less leave than they had under the old system. At the time, an employeed inquired about the change, she was told that’s just the way it is now. When she asked were employees going to get the time they lost back, the answer was an unapologetic, “no.”
- AC Went Out. Many branches are in older buildings. It stands to reason that there may be occasional outages with the HVAC system. However, there isn’t a consistent policy regarding the conditions that warrant branch closure. Employees have worked in extreme heat and cold. No one wants to see branches close unnecessarily, but employees should also have confidence that their safety and health will be a priority when conditions aren’t healthy.
- Changing Mask Policy. On May 17, 2021, as branches were opening to public browsing, BCPL made an abrupt decision to drop the mask mandate for the visiting public. They instituted this policy prior to the Board of Trustees approving it on May 18. Employees were not told until hours after it had been posted on BCPL’s social media account.
- Undisciplined for Telework. During the July Board of Trustees meeting, while debating the proposed telework policy, a board member expressed concern that new, younger employees weren’t disciplined enough to telework after a short qualifying period of employment.
- Ambushed coworker on corrective action. A BCPL employee was unexpectedly called into her manager’s office. This employee was handed a corrective action form, asked to read it and sign it. Among the reasons cited for corrective action referenced one incident that had been addressed over one year prior to the meeting. In addition, the form included an incident occurring two months prior. It involved a separate issue, for which BCPL has no official policy. As a result, this employee was denied their merit raise. A grievance process guaranteed in a union contract would have offered this employee a steward to protect their rights and a formal means to refute the corrective action.
If employees had a union at the time these incidents occurred, these situations would have been handled differently. Wages, hours and working conditions are negotiable topics, so management would have had to negotiate changes to your leave policy, benefits for part-timers might have been included in a contract as well as COVID return-to-work policies. A union contract often includes languages that limits the window on discipline action, so old incidents can’t resurface. Weingarten Rights offer employees back up in disciplinary meetings with management and, if the contract is followed, employees can dispute in a grievance procedure.
Now that employees have garnered the interest to file for an election, you have to opportunity to vote yes for union representation. Then you can say:
Remember When… BCPL employees voted YES in the union election and won a voice at work…