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New part-time library workers join CSEA

The CSEA Longwood Library Organizing Committee gather to celebrate their successful organizing campaign. Photo credit: CSEA.
New part-time library workers join CSEA
By Wendi Bowie, CSEA ·

MIDDLE ISLAND, N.Y. – After six months of organizing efforts, CSEA members are happy to welcome 89 part-time Longwood Public Library workers into the CSEA family. The group voted recently to join CSEA by an overwhelming majority.

CSEA’s new members were eager to join a union because they are seeking parity with the full-time Longwood Library workers whom CSEA already represents.

“We [part-time workers] saw that the full-time workers were receiving the benefits of a union contract and had things like paid holidays and we want that, too,” said Organizing Committee Member Deborah Scheurich.

For years, workers spoke, on and off, about issues at the library that they felt needed further attention, but somehow those conversations had never materialized into forming a union. That is, until Scheurich decided to take the initial step to contact CSEA about organizing a part-time unit at the library, located in Long Island.

Soon after, CSEA assigned an organizer to the group and Scheurich began approaching other part-time workers to join the organizing team.

Most library workers were excited to hear that their unit was in the process of joining CSEA. A few people appeared to be nervous to organize a union, but most workers were so ready to be CSEA members that more than two-thirds of the part-timers filled out authorization cards in a week. Shortly after, that number increased to include nearly the full group.

The organizing team plans on using surveys and word of mouth to establish issues workers would like to see addressed at the bargaining table. At the top of their list is establishing transparency for policies and procedures and setting up pay scales.

The organizing committee doesn’t have many members with union experience, which is why the group is thankful for the guidance of CSEA Organizer Jessica Riley.

“Jessica walked us through everything, step by step,” said Tory Young, an organizing committee member. “She tempered our expectations when needed and let us know when we should be excited about something. Jessica was an excellent resource for us when we needed help or had questions.”

From Riley’s perspective, the team did not need much assistance. She noted that the workers intuitively knew to use consensus decision making, so the best organizing ideas won out.

“They were naturals,” Riley said.

The committee is preparing to negotiate the first contract by studying other library workers’ contracts.

Luckily, the Longwood Library Board of Trustees was supportive of the members organizing.

“The director of the library board told me that the library board voted unanimously to recognize CSEA as the part-time workers’ union,” said Scheurich. “One board member even said something like, ‘It’s about time.’”

If there’s one thing that the organizing committee has learned from their organizing experience, it is that workers should not be afraid to speak up.

“If you think that your workplace could use some improvement, don’t be afraid to try to be the one to make it better,” said Young. “Organizing a union at your worksite really isn’t that hard.”

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