For nearly two years, the Baltimore County library staff have been trying to organize.
And then, COVID-19 hit and the need became even more crucial. Citing better transparency and communication from management, alongside health care benefits for nearly half the staff, the employees of the Baltimore County library want the IAM in their corner.
But since local library systems are state agencies, state legislation has to be passed for this to happen. Bills, filed by Maryland House Del. Cathi F. Forbes (D-District 42a) and Maryland State Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-District 11) would allow the nearly 600 employees to bargain and form a union.
Lead organizer Grand Lodge Representative Bridget Fitzgerald says the onset of the pandemic has brought to the surface the underlying issues of these employees. Especially since so many of the staff do not have health care benefits.
“This group of workers love what they do and just want to make sure it’s safe to come to work,” explains Fitzgerald. “They want to know that management has their best interests at heart when making decisions that will affect them, especially with the cases of COVID-19 on the rise again.”
A statement put out by the library and its board of directors says they “support the right of employees to pursue collect bargaining.” Hearings on the bill are scheduled for February, and the Machinists Union is working with the library staff to assist in any way possible, believing a union contract is the best way to make sure these workers are heard and protected during a time that’s rewriting the history books they shelve.
“Collective bargaining rights should be the basic principles afforded to every worker in our country,” says IAM’s Director of Organizing Vinny Addeo. “Unfortunately, because of the intricate county laws that apply to the State of Maryland’s Baltimore County Library staff, they currently do not have these basic rights. I am confident that with the combined professional teamwork of IAM GLR Bridget Fitzgerald, Assistant Political and Legislative Director Monica Lee Silbas and Associate General Counsel Laura Ewan, we will get the job done and bring justice to these workers.”
“These hardworking men and women are the keepers of history in the community. They provide an essential service for families in and around Baltimore. They deserve to have a voice and a vote on the job,” says Fitzgerald.
READ: Baltimore County librarians seek to unionize through legislation that’s going before General Assembly The Baltimore Sun