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[NORTHAMPTON, MA] - On the morning of Friday, March 8th, workers at Smith College Libraries (SCL) delivered a letter to the College President and Board of Trustees announcing their union and requesting voluntary recognition. This newly-formed union, known as the Smith College Libraries Workers Union (SCLWU), is affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153. 

This union announcement comes on the heels of the tremendous amounts of work the staff at Smith College Libraries (SCL) staff have shouldered over the past years, including extraordinary efforts to keep the libraries functioning through the early days of the pandemic, despite low staffing and high turnover. Some positions have been open for months or years, while others have been filled multiple times. According to these workers, 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.

“I am excited for the Smith College Libraries Workers Union because it will help us address difficulties that hinder the Libraries’ mission and work on concrete solutions together,” says Micah Walter, a web services librarian. “Recruitment and retention are examples of problems that have challenged us over the past few years, and where the ideas and input of all our staff will make a real difference. Our union will give everyone the security we need in order to share our ideas without fear. It will also give us legal standing with the college to bargain for the wages, staffing, training and job clarity we need in order to best support the Smith community that we love.”

SCLWU cites inadequate compensation, insufficient training, unclear decision-making processes, not enough full-time exempt (FTE) positions, lack of worker agency, job creep, and limited growth opportunities as issues that spurred their organizing efforts. To address these issues, they have laid out a clear set of union demands, including cost of living (COLA) adjustments and better pay, clear job descriptions, a grievance and arbitration system, compensation for those taking on extra job duties created by vacancies, clear promotion and growth pathways, and a collective voice in their workplace.

“I strongly believe that a union within Smith College Libraries would greatly improve the working environment and success of those working here,” says Xochitl Quiroz, a first years engagement and humanities librarian. “As an early-career librarian who moved across the country for this job, I want to know that I chose a place that will support me and allow me to grow. Part of that support comes from knowing that those working alongside me are being treated with the respect that they deserve, and that everyone’s voice is valued and listened to. A union can ensure that the library is an equitable and transparent workplace for all.”

For more information and for ways to support the Smith Libraries Workers campaign to win their union, you can visit the SCLWU website or follow their instagram (@SCLworkersunion). 

Original source: OPEIU website

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