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Camden County Librarians Get Active for a Contract

Camden County Librarians Get Active for a Contract
By John Noonan ·
Camden County Librarians Get Active for a Contract
Julie Tozer, president of Local 1454 (AFSCME New Jersey)

Julie Tozer likes to help people. It’s her favorite part of being a librarian.

“I love being able to help people access resources that a lot of us may take for granted. Take, for instance, the computer classes I teach. We start with basic things like double clicking. Something that may seem like second nature to a lot of us can open up an incredibly powerful tool for someone who didn’t have that knowledge, or the access beforehand,” said Tozer, president of Local 1454 (AFSCME New Jersey).

Julie’s computer classes are just one of the many ways she and her fellow AFSCME members make their communities better places to live. For them helping people is a calling, not just a job.

Unfortunately, librarians like Julie and the critical support staff have been working without a contract since December 2015. The delay is starting to remind them of the six years county freeholders dragged their feet for before settling on their last contract.

But, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

What’s changed this time? Julie and her coworkers have gotten active because they know when working people stand together and fight together they win together. They’re doing what AFSCME does best: taking it to the streets and making their case to the public.

“I arrived with the library system five years into a six-year battle to settle the last contract, and that six years is definitely on people’s minds. It’s clearly a big part of why people have decided to step up and get vocal,” Tozer said.

Camden County librarians and support staff hold a rally outside the Vogelson Branch of the Camden County Library System.

(Photo courtesy CWA New Jersey)

Standing together with their support staff, who are represented by the Communications Workers of America and are also without a contract, library staff have held rallies, done press conferences and last week dropped lunchtime leaflets at every library in the county. That commitment to standing with the support staff has been important, according to Tozer.

“We’ve heard that after some of their negotiations, management was telling support staff they couldn’t give them a raise they need and deserve because then they’d have to give us one,” Tozer explained. “Or, on the other hand, making a few concessions in our negotiations in hopes we’ll abandon our demand. ... It’s classic divide and conquer. Being active and not allowing ourselves to be played against each other has put us in a place where we all can do better.”

AFSCME represents more than 25,000 librarians in New Jersey and across the country. They work in urban library systems in cities like Camden, N.J., New York City, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles, at the county level, and in statewide library systems like in Hawaii and Delaware. Blocks from the White House, AFSCME members serve at the Library of Congress.

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