Update on the BCPL Union Election

Since the last update, we’re excited to announce that the BCPL employee collective bargaining legislation passed the General Assembly and is before Governor Hogan! We expect the legislation will become effective July 1, 2021, which clears the way for us to gather the interest to file for an election in September 2021.

Of course with that obstacle behind us, many of you are asking, “What Now?” Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

When will BCPL employees have a union? 
A majority of BCPL employees have to vote to have union representation in a union election in order to have a union. The law permits petitions for union elections to be filed only during the month of September of any given year. We cannot file for an election unless we have a minimum of 30% of the employees submit a union card. The law also requires all cards be dated within the previous 9 months from the date of filing; therefore, all cards must be dated after Jan 1, 2021. If you’ve filled out a card before that date, please submit a new card online at bcpl.iamsignup.org.

Can BCPL change job descriptions while employees are trying to unionize? 
Yes. Management is responsible for operating the library system in what they feel is the best possible way. Since employees currently do not have union representation, management is not required to discuss the implementation of their decisions with union representatives. When employees have a union, their union representatives will be involved in the implementation of decisions to ensure employees are protected.

There seems to be a lot of changes happening. Is BCPL rushing to change job descriptions before employees can elect union representation?
BCPL has a new director and she has a management vision. The timeline could be what the plan was all along. Even with a union, management has the right to make changes in the workplace. However, with a union, management would be required to notify the union of their intent to make changes. In addition, there is an obligation to negotiate with the union over the impact those changes have on your working conditions. Your union would make sure employees remain protected, to include adequate time, training and resources to ensure you can be successful.

Can the union negotiate for BCPL employees now?
No. Until the employees elect union representation, the union cannot engage management in discussion on behalf of the employees. Management is free to continue to make decisions and changes they feel are necessary.

What will happen to “my job” with the hybrid position?
Until employees have a union, it’s hard to say. Management is not required to discuss the hybrid position, or other changes in the workplace with union representatives until after a successful election. If employees were covered by a union contract, management and the union would enter into discussions regarding the scope of the hybrid position. Your union would work to ensure job security with a fair and transparent application process.

BCPL says they are making improvements and reviewing our salaries, so do we still need a union?
It’s great that BCPL is taking steps to improve things for their employees. I could question the timing (are they finally taking steps because you want a union?); however, it’s most important to note that with a union, you’ve got someone advocating for employees’ best interest. Your union rep works for you and the improvements are guaranteed in the contract. Without a union contract, BCPL is free to make changes to any and all policies without negotiating with you.

Is there more than one union vying for our membership?
There are many unions in the Labor Movement, but we work together for the benefit of workers and agree not to fight each other. In fact, other unions in the Baltimore County area helped the IAM get the bill passed when BCPL’s lobbyists were working against us.

If BCPL supports employees having a union, why did they hire lobbyists to work against the bill?
The Board wanted the legislation to contain more restrictive language, similar to language passed for Howard County. We felt the language infringed upon your rights. For example, we fought very hard to make sure the Director would NOT receive the names of employees that signed cards, because employees have a right to confidentiality. We also fought to limit the specifics under management’s rights because it drastically limited your bargaining power during negotiations. So while they support your rights, they wanted to maintain the control – essentially to maintain the conditions you have without a union. Good news is the final language in the legislation protects your expectation of confidentiality and allows for your wages, benefits, hours and working conditions to be negotiated and guaranteed in a union contract.

Why are employees not allowed to use our work email or BCPL equipment to organize?
The equipment, your work email and your time at work are assets of the library system. Organizing a union is of value to the employees. To utilize employer assets, or to allow employees to organize on the clock could be seen as pressuring the employees. It’s an employee’s choice to have union representation and employees are free to make it.

What if I want to know more?
If you have a question that wasn’t covered in this handout, feel free to reach out to the organizer Bridget Fitzgerald by call or text, 301-213-4189 or email, bfitzgerald@iamaw.org. There is also information available on our website: bcplunited.org.