top of page

FREQUENTLY
ASKED

QUESTIONS

What is OPEIU 153?

What is SCLWU?

Smith College Libraries Workers Union (SCLWU), affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, is a group of workers joined together to protect and improve wages, benefits and working conditions within the Smith College Libraries (SCL). We aim to give Smith Libraries employees a clear path towards agency, fairness and respect, as well as a stronger voice toward decisions made by the Libraries and Smith College administration. Without a union, employers have 100% control—SCLWU intends to democratize decision-making through member input and collective bargaining.

What is OPEIU 153?

Chartered in 1945, OPEIU is the union with whom the SCLWU organizing committee unanimously voted to affiliate. OPEIU is a union of more than 103,000 employees in technology, credit unions, hospitals, insurance agencies, colleges and universities, hotels, administrative offices, and more. Local 153 supports workers throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. OPEIU is committed to advancing economic justice for all working people!

What brought SCL staff to unionize?

Smith College Libraries workers have done tremendous work over the past years, including extraordinary efforts to keep the libraries functioning through the early days of the pandemic. They have done this despite low staffing and high turnover: some positions have been open for months or years, while others have been filled multiple times. The continued loss of staff and of institutional knowledge consumes time and effort, all the while impacting SCL’s ability to fulfill its mission and effectively serve the Smith community.


SCL’s retention challenges are both cause and effect: the continued loss of staff is a symptom of ongoing issues that prompt staff to leave, and also results in an organization with less experience and fewer workers, leaving those workers in an even more difficult situation. The challenges brought on by staff departures and unfilled positions are compounded by other concerns such as clarity of job roles, quality of training, and agency in decision-making.


These issues are difficult to solve without full collaboration and open communication among staff at all levels. We believe that a union is one of the best tools to ensure that staff receive the support and compensation they need in order to be effective and remain in SCL. This in turn supports the future success of the Libraries.

Who is eligible for SCLWU membership?

SCLWU's wall-to-wall union includes all Smith College Library staff workers, full-time, part-time, and temporary, excluding Supervisory, Managerial, Confidential employees and Guards as defined by the National Labor Relations Act. Employees hired by third-party agencies outside of Smith College are not eligible.

 

I’m a manager. Will I qualify to be in the bargaining unit?

We know for certain that, as directors, those in LLT will not qualify for SCLWU union membership. However, we do not have a definitive answer about four workers who either have "manager" in their title or direct reports, but do not have hiring/firing authority. These four workers were eligible to vote in the April 9 union election with the understanding that their eligibility for union membership will be contested after the election.

What are SCL workers' concerns?

We have heard from staff in all units across the Libraries. Although each unit and each worker has different concerns, some common themes emerged:

  • Staff are not paid competitively; with inflation, many workers have experienced effective pay cuts since 2020, rather than being compensated for their increased value to the college as they gain experience.
     

  • The process for decision-making within the organization is unclear, and staff lack a clear channel for contributing to decisions that affect their work.
     

  • Staff are asked to take on additional work, such as duties from open positions or managerial responsibilities, without compensation.
     

  • Staff are not always empowered to contribute effectively to discussions of structure, strategy or process because there are no mechanisms to ensure their security.
     

  • There is insufficient training and clarity around job expectations.
     

  • Job duties may be added, removed or changed at will, without being negotiated or defined in writing.
     

  • There are not enough FTE allocated to do concrete work in core areas; casual and temporary staff (as well as student workers) are relied upon to provide essential services.
     

  • Staff who are working on a term basis, or who are seeking job growth within the organization, are not offered opportunities within SCL and are forced to look elsewhere, even when they perform excellent work and possess significant institutional knowledge.
     

What are SCLWU's demands?

SCLWU believes that our perspectives are important to the success of the Libraries, and that we deserve to take part in creating a respectful, thriving work environment. In order to do so, we seek to form a union, which would enable us to create a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). We seek to collectively negotiate for a CBA that will:
 

  • Clarify job roles and supervisor/supervisee relationships, as well as respect and acknowledge boundaries.
     

  • Expand democracy in the workplace and worker agency.
     

  • Create a system for workplace grievance resolution.
     

  • Review and improve salaries and pay equity, including yearly raises.
     

  • Ensure that workers taking on additional responsibilities due to staffing shortages are compensated accordingly.
     

  • Increase opportunities for promotion and clarify the path to having increased responsibilities within a role recognized.
     

We are dedicated to providing the best service that we can. We believe that achieving these demands will help SCL succeed in its mission to the Smith community.
 

Why is unionizing our best option?

There are many aspects of our working lives that can not be directly negotiated with library leadership. For example, grade increases and additional FTE are controlled by the college, not SCL leadership. A union is the only viable pathway to negotiate between SCL workers and the college: it provides a legal path for SCL workers to actually negotiate with the college to provide what the Libraries need to thrive, rather than being content with the staffing resources provided to us.


A union is the only way to ensure that staff have agency. It protects against retaliation for workers advocating for ourselves and each other.

What has the path to unionizing looked like?

September 2023 

  • Initial outreach to SCL staff began

October 2023

  • Researched and outreached to peer institutions that successfully unionized

  • Met with member of DCLWU @ Dartmouth College

  • Spoke with Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC) 

November 2023​

  • Met with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

  • Met with Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU)

December 2023

Met with United Auto Workers (UAW)

February 2024

  • Voted unanimously to affiliate with OPEIU Local 153!

March 2024

  • SCLWU gathered union authorization cards that indicated we wish to form a union. A supermajority—more than two-thirds—of SCL non-management staff formally expressed interest in collective representation, and there have been less formal expressions of support from still more.

  • On March 8, 2024, International Women's Day, SCLWU presented our letter of intention and signatures to the Smith College President and Board of Trustees. Now that the cards and our letter of intention have been submitted to the administration, the union may be officially recognized in one of two ways:

    • The college voluntarily recognizes the union. No further action is required to secure union status.

    • The college does not voluntarily recognize the union. If this happens, a secret-ballot NLRB election will take place with all SCL staff voting “yea” or “nay” for the formation of SCLWU. A “yea” vote is needed from 50 percent plus one of eligible staff.

April 2024

  • On Tuesday, April 9—National Library Workers Day—the library workers at Smith College won their NLRB election, voting unanimously (26-0) in favor of unionizing with OPEIU Local 153! Read more.

June 2024

What happens now that SCLWU is officially recognized?

Now that SCLWU is officially recognized as a union by Smith College, a bargaining committee that represents our members meets at the table across from Smith College management to create and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), a legal contract that outlines and secures worker pay, benefits, and conditions. Members of the union will be able to express concerns and advocate for decisions surrounding the conditions of our employment. Once the CBA is ratified, the conditions within the agreement will be enacted.

What is not up for negotiation?

No existing wages, benefits, or core functions of the Libraries will be changed or adjusted without the explicit input of SCL workers. We are committed to the success of the students, faculty, staff and community members who rely on the library and the satisfaction and safety of the workers who staff it—SCLWU’s demands are intended to improve the Libraries for all!
 

Once a contract is signed, the college will not be able to make changes, such as taking away benefits or making further cuts to staff, without moderated negotiation with the union. The collective bargaining agreement ensures wages, salaries and job duties cannot be changed at will.

What are the risks?

It is illegal for the College to threaten, harass, fire, discipline, or discriminate against you because of union activity. Even though Massachusetts is an “employment at-will” state, which allows employers to fire employees at any time, federal law protects union organizers against retaliation from their employer through the National Labor Relations Act. 


However, subtle (or not so subtle) retaliation could happen. Should this arise, we will have a union representative on call to intervene.

Retaliation could look like:

  • Silent treatment 

  • Exclusion from meetings, events, decision making

  • Reduced hours

  • Excessive micromanaging

  • Unwarranted reprimanding 

  • Denying reasonable schedule requests without cause

Alert anyone on the SCLWU organizing committee if you experiencing any negative response to union activity!

Keep in mind: SCLWU is not a third party representative speaking on behalf of you. As members of SCLWU/OPEIU 153, we, the rank-and-file, are our union and we will be directly negotiating with Smith administration during bargaining. We also have OPEIU 153's network of union siblings as a source of additional collective strength and solidarity as we campaign to win our union and a strong contract.

What are the financial costs?

Union members pay dues on a monthly basis, which will be deducted pre-tax from your paycheck regardless of your union vote. All union members benefit from the work of the union even if they are not an active participant in union activity. No one will begin paying dues until 31 calendar days after the contract ratification date, and our contract will not be ratified until a majority of us, the members, vote to ratify it! Union dues are used to advance common interests, as well as protect and empower workers. Dues may be used for:

 

  • Affiliate union support toward increasing bargaining power

  • Supporting workers who are on sick or disability leave

  • Union representation during the grievance process

  • Legal counsel during contract negotiations or arbitration

  • Membership outreach and communication

  • Strike funds to support workers in the event of a strike

  • Organizational costs

Dues will be 1.25% of gross wages, with a floor/minimum of $10.38/week and a ceiling/maximum of $15/week. After 2025, the ceiling will increase by 3% each year (for example, ceiling will be $15.45 in 2026, $15.91 in 2027, $16.39 in 2028, and $16.88 in 2029). For all new members hired after the ratification of the first contract, there will be a one-time initiation fee of $100. This fee is waived/not applicable to union-eligible employees that are employed prior to contract ratification.

How can I get involved?

If you’d like more information on how to organize with SCLWU, or if you have any thoughts or questions, email sclworkersunion@gmail.com. We hope you’ll join us!

Why is unionizing our best option?​
What is SCLWU?
What brought SCL staff to unionize?
What are SCL workers' conerns?
What are SCLWU's demands?
Who is eligible for SCLWU membership?
What has the path to unionizing looked like?
What happens now that SCLWU is officially recognized?
What is not up for negotiation?
What are the risks?
What are the financial costs?
How can I get involved?
bottom of page