Louisville Metro: Give Library Workers What They're Owed

Louisville Metro: Give Library Workers What They're Owed

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AFSCME Local 3425 started this petition to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and

To Mayor Fischer and the Louisville Metro Council: 

We are the Louisville Free Public Library Workers’ Union and we are asking for Metro leaders to help resolve the conflict between the Louisville Metro negotiations team and our members. 

We began the negotiations process in August 2019 by crafting a contract proposal aimed at meeting the needs of our staff and their families—parental leave, and a more inclusive sick and funeral leave aimed at benefiting LGBTQIA+, adoptive, and unmarried families. Additionally, we wanted to reform a discipline process that leaves minorities and disabled folks especially vulnerable to discrimination; we asked for a flexible schedule for employees who are students and parents; and we asked to reform our Sunday overtime system that encumbers part-time workers, often those same students and parents, or others living in poverty. Our original proposal also included an anti-discrimination statement. 

We entered the negotiations space intending to discuss our proposal and to find a bridge between Metro’s vision and our own, with an eye towards doing the most good for the most people. Instead, Metro’s negotiation team laughed at our proposal and rejected it in its entirety. Their explanation: the union wants unnecessary things. Our first meetings were tense. Rather than discussing our proposal, we fought to be respected as equals at the negotiations table. 

Amid all this, our workers were going underpaid. Metro put off beginning negotiations until after our contract expired and stopped all additions to base pay that Metro employees usually receive: the step raises for holding our position for a qualified number of years; annual longevity pay that many rely upon to make ends meet around the winter holidays; and our annual cost of living adjustment. Then COVID-19 happened. 

When our buildings closed to the public, we continued to provide services to folks from a distance, despite rumor to the contrary. We also worked to maintain our collections and tackle work that had been deferred while we were busy serving the public with inadequate staffing. Our buildings were only ever empty for one month of furlough. However, some staff still remained to keep our online services running, and a handful of Youth Services staff created a scaled-back, yet impressive Summer Reading program for Louisville’s children and families. In addition, many clerks and pages came back two months early from furlough. As the lowest paid staff in the system, missing out on the extra money from the federal unemployment and coming back when Covid numbers were at their highest was really difficult. They would not only run their own branches, but all branches in their region with very little staff. As you can imagine, this was extremely taxing on our hardworking, underpaid members.

We returned from furlough to new policies and procedures, reimagined services, but no word on the resumption of contract negotiations. Despite anxiety from ever-changing rules, last minute opening announcements, news that we weren’t originally considered for vaccination, and rising costs of living, we worked during a pandemic after nearly two years of not getting the raises we need to better support our families. 

Our negotiations team recommended basic, compassionate, and inclusive reform. After much resistance from Metro however, we approached them with a radically scaled-back proposal. Our priority became getting our workers the money they needed and had been working for years without: back pay for the missed step raises, longevity pay, and overdue cost of living increases. We did not include raises to our base pay; we mirrored Metro’s language revisions for funeral leave to include LGBTQIA+ and unmarried families; we included none of the progressive changes we initially proposed other than the Sunday shift reform that we believed library administration also wanted. We proposed this before Thanksgiving 2020, and Metro, after some back and forth, has countered with little of what we asked for in our scaled-back proposal, refusing even the inclusive language of funeral leave. 

We are at a loss per this treatment by Louisville Metro Government. If these directives are coming from the Metro Council and Mayor Fischer, then what we have seen at the table is antithetical to the rhetoric and the values our leaders espouse. We were under the impression that the Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Fischer both wanted anti-racist, compassionate, and inclusive policy. The library demonstrates those values, yet its workers survive on scraps. 

We are desperate for intervention from you. You—the Metro Council and Mayor Fischer—approve our contract. We need your help in getting the very basic things our members need. We believe our values align with yours, as you have passed parental leave and the inclusive personnel policies we referenced earlier and are having trouble getting included into our contract.

Please contact Metro’s negotiation team on our behalf. We invite Mayor Fischer, or any Metro Council member, to attend negotiations meetings as we do not believe Metro’s team is acting in good faith to your values. We would also be more than happy to make negotiations meetings public so all concerned folks may act as outside observers. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

Louisville Free Public Library Workers’ Union, AFSCME Local 3425

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