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Workers at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library seek union recognition

Photo Credit: The Library of Congress
By Kathleen Cancio ·

Workers in Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) system are forming a union through AFSCME Council 67.

They announced the formation of Pratt Workers United (PWU) on Wednesday. PWU would cover employees at EPFL’s Central Library and 21 branches throughout Baltimore.

It marks the latest campaign to empower workers at a Baltimore cultural organization. Workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum have also formed unions in the past couple of years through AFSCME’s Cultural Workers United campaign.

PWU says in its mission statement that it aims to make the library a place “that prioritizes respect, accountability and transparency toward its employees and toward the public” by securing a voice on the job, better wages and benefits, health and safety protocols at work, and transparent hiring practices. Workers also want a voice in the library’s decision-making process.

Alayna Baron, a library associate at EPFL’s Hamilton branch, said she wants management to take her ideas and needs and those of her co-workers seriously.

“Workers in the branches hold expert knowledge about the neighborhoods in which we work,” she said. “But big decisions are made without our input, and we’re shuffled around between locations without our consent. It’s dehumanizing and I’m burned out. If I’m not taken care of, how can I take care of my patrons?” 

Baron said she has witnessed many of her co-workers get burned out and being mistreated.

 "When the power is back in the hands of Pratt workers and our community members, all of us will benefit," she said.

Masetsaba Woodland, who works in the Central Library’s collection development department, put it more simply: “This is about dignity. Everyone deserves to be respected at work”

PWU says the majority of workers have already expressed support for a union across the EPFL system. The workers plan to notify library administration of their intent to form a union and will seek voluntary recognition in the coming week.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library is among the oldest free public libraries in the United States.

For updates on the Pratt Workers United campaign, visit www.prattworkersunited.org or follow @prattworkersunited on Facebook and Instagram and @prattworkers on Twitter.

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