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Workers at Howard County Library System win union election

Photo: AFSCME Maryland Council 3
Workers at Howard County Library System win union election
By AFSCME Maryland Council 3 ·

Over 200 library workers at the Howard County Library System have overwhelmingly voted to form their union through AFSCME Maryland Council 3.

Workers voted 151-19 in favor of their union in an election conducted last week. The new bargaining unit will consist of full-time and part-time staff from all seven branches through all eligible job titles in the Howard County Library System.

Members of Howard County Library Workers United (HCLWU) announced their intention to unionize in October 2023. They formed their union to win a voice in the workplace, advocate for fair wages and job protection, and address issues such as staffing, promotion, schedules and workplace safety.

Workers at several other Maryland cultural institutions have also formed unions through AFSCME Maryland, including the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Walters Art Museum. Through its Cultural Workers United campaign, AFSCME represents more cultural workers across the country than any other union, including 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.

“Victory for our union is a victory for Howard County residents. In many ways, library workers are first responders, since we are a free educational and supportive resource for all. Many of our customers primarily turn to us for information. The union will allow staff members to have real input into making decisions that benefit the community that has entrusted us to be careful stewards of public dollars,” said Cherise Tasker, an instructor and research specialist.

Piyali Callahan, another instructor and research specialist, said having a union will help Howard County Public Library workers strengthen their connections with the people they serve.

“We work with our community on a daily basis. We see them, we hear their stories, we work with them, we work for them. We know their needs, and we have long wanted to be part of the decision-making so that we can convey those needs to our administration,” Callahan said. “And now with this victory, we can finally have a voice.”  

According to Council 3 President Patrick Moran, Howard County Library workers will join 45,000 other AFSCME members across Maryland working in county and state governments, higher education and the private sector. All these workers seek fair pay, strong benefits and safe working conditions that those who provide essential public services to our communities deserve.

“With today’s victory, we’re looking to the Maryland General Assembly and the (Gov. Wes) Moore administration to do the right thing and pass the Library Workers Empowerment Act, so additional library workers across Maryland can finally have the respect and seat at the table that they deserve,” Moran said.

Introduced in the Maryland House and Senate, the Library Workers Empowerment Act would create a collective bargaining process for workers in all of the state’s public library systems.

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