The COVID-19 pandemic caused many workers to realize they deserve more for their labor, sparking union organizing drives in many industries, including libraries.
Worthington Public Library workers have taken up their own organizing drive and believe they will be successful in their efforts. Worthington Public Libraries United Organizer Tara Shiman described their efforts, why they are organizing and their support on the AWF Union Podcast.
Worthington Public Libraries United
Worthington is a central Ohio suburb of Columbus. Shiman said libraries throughout the state of Ohio are largely organized. However, libraries in central Ohio have lagged behind and many are not organized, such as the Worthington Public Libraries.
She said the employees of the three-branch library system have been organizing for over a year. Efforts have included talking with library staff and other colleagues about their needs in the workplace.
Although the Worthington Public Library lost some staff during the pandemic due to downsizing and retirement, the organizing effort has been well received by the remaining staff. Shiman said the staff overwhelmingly signed cards to form a union.
One of the main grievances among library staff is compensation. Shiman reminded listeners that being a librarian is only one of the jobs at a library. Many of the employees are part time or work in positions that do not offer quality pay. Additionally, these workers are not eligible for the same benefits as the full-time staff.
The pandemic also played a role in organizing efforts. Quality healthcare became a must have during the pandemic, something that many in a non-union library did not have. Also, much of the staff was furloughed, putting some in a state of unknown fear that their job was never coming back.
Reaction to organizing and support
The library board did not originally recognize the union voluntarily, they did not know what to think of the effort. Despite not voluntarily recognizing the union, the board has taken the time to learn about the organizing process and has welcomed public comment during board meetings.
The support has been good according to Shiman. The Ohio Federation of Teachers has been meeting with their bargaining unit on a weekly basis. However, they have let the library staff take the wheel.
Additional support has come from the community they serve. A petition of support is circulating with nearly 1,000 signatures from community members. Additionally, their social media campaign has garnered the support of politicians such as U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as local politicians.