Cleveland Library Workers Stand United for Improved Staffing and to Stop Outsourcing, Issue 10-Day Strike Notice

Workers at Cleveland Public Library say taxpayers approved increases in taxes in order to support programs and services for the community, not to give massive pay increases and bonuses to top executives.

CLEVELAND, OHIO – Today, Union Librarians, Library Assistants, Clerks, Custodians, maintenance workers, and a wide range of support staff at the Cleveland Public Library have issued a 10-day notice of their intent to strike after months of negotiations with top executives have failed to yield a fair contract that respects the dignity of their work and supports the public services they provide.  Instead, proposals by Cleveland Public Library administration would outsource Cleveland jobs, and make it more difficult for front line staff that is already stretched to provide valuable services and programs to the community.

“My co-workers and I are committed to providing the best possible service to the people of our community.  We are dedicated professionals who care deeply about our neighbors,” said Debbie Hajzak, an Outreach and Programming Services Project Coordinator for the Library and Member Vice President with SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH. “We have done everything we can to avoid going on strike, but enough is enough.  We can no longer stand by while the executives of “The People’s University” line their own pockets at the expense of the public.  We are standing up for the work we do and for the service we provide to our community. We will not allow the Library to replace dedicated public servants with volunteers, outsource work, and continue to add executive positions while they keep frontline and support staffing at a bare minimum at best.”

Despite voters giving overwhelming approval to Issue 60 in 2017, the recent levy campaign in support of library services and programs, Cleveland Public Library has used those resources to give massive pay increases and huge bonuses to their top executives, in addition to luxurious benefit packages. At the same time, more than 100 bargaining unit positions have been eliminated over the past 10 years, leaving most library workers doing double- and triple-duty in service to the community as demand for library programs and services continues to increase. 

“The Cleveland Public Library went to the citizens of Cleveland to ask for an increase in millage and the residents supported this levy increase overwhelmingly, and in return library executives have chosen to give large payouts to top administrators, many of whom are not residents of Cleveland. Library executives continue to ignore the needs of the hard-working people that make this library the Five Star premiere organization that this administration so often boasts about,” said Erick Walker, a Senior Subject Department Clerk at the Cleveland Public Library and Executive Board Member with SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH. “Taxpayers approved increases in taxes in order to support the services we provide to our neighbors and our community, but instead Cleveland Public Library executives have shifted their priorities from public service to self-service.  It’s time they get their priorities straight.”

With a vote of support from bargaining unit members of SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH at the Cleveland Public Library, notice has been served to library executives and the State Employees Relations Board (SERB) that unless an agreement can be reached, workers will be on strike beginning at 12:00 pm on February 4th, 2020. With only one bargaining session remaining on Thursday, January 23, workers remain willing to meet up to the day of the strike, and after, if necessary. 

To ease the burden on striking library workers, the Executive Board of SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH voted to increase strike benefits to offset some of the cost of lost wages for bargaining unit members who work shifts on the picket line outside of each of the 28 strike locations. 

Cleveland Public Library plans to spend up to $175,000 on lawyers and propaganda to further discredit the dedicated workers of the Cleveland Public Library, but the people of Cleveland stand with library workers. 

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