Library Workers Try To Unionize But Hit Roadblock In Anne Arundel County
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD - Library workers are trying to unionize, but they hit a roadblock last week in Anne Arundel County.
Union organizers attended Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting for the Anne Arundel County Public Library. The group of about 30 employees asked the board to formally recognize the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3 as their union.
The board went into private deliberations. Board members returned soon after and said they support workers' rights to unionize, but they can't recognize a union without a law letting them do so.
"While we deeply respect our people and the desire of some to organize, our legal counsel has advised the board that we do not have the authority to accept any petition recognizing a union until enabling legislation is passed at the state level," board Chairman Chris Nelson said in a statement. "We intend to follow that advice and the procedures the law requires."
Most of the library's 380 nonmanagement employees have already declared their intent to join AFSCME, union organizers said, according to The Capital.
Severna Park Library Associate Laura Kellman told The Capital that full-time associates make $45,200 to $76,800. That's less than the advertised salaries for similar positions at the already-unionized Montgomery and Prince George's County libraries, The Capital reported.
"I'm always wondering why my family is struggling so much," Kellman told The Capital.
Push For Union Laws
There are other existing library unions in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The Howard County Public Library has also petitioned for a union election.
These library systems already have laws at the local or state level that let them unionize, Anne Arundel County Public Library CEO Skip Auld said.
Auld said Anne Arundel County does not have similar legislation on the books.
"Simply put, the board’s counsel (Jay Creech, formerly of the County’s Office of Law) believes that the body does not have the legal authority to accept a petition to form a union," Auld said in a statement to employees on Friday. "If the board isn’t legally allowed to do so, they have no choice but to reject the request. They are following counsel’s advice."
Auld said he supports fair unionization efforts. He also said he's lobbying for a statewide law granting all library workers the right to unionize. Auld is partnering with the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators in that push.
The library said the Maryland General Assembly considered similar legislation in recent years, but none of those bills passed. Auld said he testified in favor of those efforts.
"The board believes that all our employees and the AACPL system deserve a formal process for union representation and collective bargaining that will respect the right of workers to decide for themselves whether they wish to be represented," Auld said. "There is currently no system in place."
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) pledged to support unionization efforts as well.
"If library staff choose to organize a union, I trust that the library board and leadership will cooperate fully," Pittman said. "If State authorization is required, I will support legislation to grant workers collective bargaining rights."
Adjunct professors at Anne Arundel Community College also voted to unionize earlier this month.
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