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Washington - Library Workers Join AFSCME

Washington State Council of County and City Employees/AFSCME Council 2, which represents the vast majority of library districts and city libraries throughout the state, is now even larger.

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Tumwater, Washington

Washington State Council of County and City Employees/AFSCME Council 2, which represents the vast majority of library districts and city libraries throughout the state, is now even larger.

Nearly 200 members of the Timberland Regional Library Staff Association in Southwest Washington voted overwhelmingly this summer to affiliate with Council 2, which now represents 2,000 library workers.

Approximately 85 percent of the members voted, and 71 percent voted to affiliate with Council 2. “This was the highest voter return we’ve ever had,” says Michelle Zilli, the association’s president.

The staff association represents librarians, technicians, support workers and pages of the library system, which serves more than 421,000 residents with 27 sites in five counties: Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston.

Association members wanted to join AFSCME because “we’ve reached a point, after about 20 years as a stand-alone union, where there are things we need to know in order to better represent our members,” Zilli explains. “We would also love to have our shop stewards trained on a regular basis, and we are looking forward to having representatives who are fully versed in labor law available all the time.”

The difficult economy that challenges libraries across the country was also among the considerations facing the workers as they debated whether to join Council 2. Making matters worse, voters in February rejected a ballot measure that would have raised new library revenues. The reduced funds caused library trustees to cut hours and slash spending in the face of a projected $2.5 million budget shortfall next year.

In anticipation of difficult negotiations once their existing contract expired in December, association leaders invited officials from three Council 2 library locals to make a presentation on the merits of affiliation. Impressed, they voted to put the question to the general membership.

“I’m really pleased that they have confidence in AFSCME,” says Council 2 Pres. Chris Dugovich. “We look forward to doing the best possible job on their behalf.”

The union now plans to organize 400 workers of the Sno-Isle Library System, which serves more than 650,000 residents in Snohomish and Island counties.