Get The Facts – Cleveland Public Library Workers Are Fighting For Safety, Fairness, and Union Jobs

Fact: Though the library system continually claims that their Union members are overpaid, Cleveland Public Library CEO Felton Thomas Jr.’s salary increased from $183,983.72 to $220,000 with the start of a new employment agreement on January 1, 2019. CEO Felton Thomas Jr. also received at the time the agreement was reached a $10,000 bonus. Additionally, CEO Felton Thomas Jr.’s 5-year contract guarantees 5% annual wage increases. In addition to other perks, COO Jeremiah Swetel will also receive a $50,000 bonus in 2024 under his employment contract that was approved in September 2019. A recent news report detailed that in addition to CEO Felton Thomas, 11 other managers with the library system earn between $119,000 and $143,000 a year.

Fact: Cleveland Public Library has paid $100,000 in taxpayer dollars for legal services from an anti-union law firm. The library is now proposing spending an additional $75,000 for such services in relation to ongoing negotiations

Fact: Union members with the Cleveland Public Library have been requesting bargaining dates since early 2019 and have been ready to meet throughout the year. Bargaining committee members report that the library was resistant to scheduling bargaining dates and did not allow for enough dates. To members of the bargaining committee, working without a contract and the potential need to strike is concerning, as they have been willing to do anything needed to negotiate.

Fact: Workers with Cleveland Public Library have a number of security concerns that are based on the realities of their work. Workers have seen firsthand serious threats such as violence and other activity that has occurred both inside and around branch locations. 

Fact: The most significant concerns of workers with Cleveland Public Library are not based on economics. Workers are standing together to ensure adequate staffing and good union jobs for the community, in addition to security and safety for library employees and patrons.

Fact: While security and safety are issues of high importance to library workers, the library system recently began a 10-year $100M capital improvement plan. Cleveland Voters approved Issue 60 in 2017, which included a tax increase of 2-mill. Branch renovations are important but the safety of patrons and library workers and other issues brought forward by the bargaining committee should be overriding.

Fact: Cleveland Public Library leaders are now publicly discussing the potential impact of a strike – bargaining committee members are concerned that this will be used to harm the perceptions of the dedicated workers with the library system. Members of the negotiating committee have been willing to continue negotiations into the evening and late into the night but negotiations have concluded promptly. A strike is always a last resort but workers are weighing if it may be necessary. 

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