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Workers at Maryland’s Howard County Library System to form a union

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Workers at Maryland’s Howard County Library System to form a union
Workers at Maryland’s Howard County Library System to form a union

BALTIMORE – Workers at Maryland’s Howard County Library System (HCLS) are forming a union through AFSCME Maryland Council 3 that would include 150 staff across all seven branches.

The workers want a voice in the decision-making process, more transparent communications, fair wages, additional job protections, reasonable schedules, adequate staffing, and solutions to health and safety concerns.

Organizing efforts began after a group of employees met last year following sweeping job restructuring to discuss the challenges within the library system. After realizing administration had done little to address staff’s longstanding concerns, workers decided it was time to take action and form HoCo Library Workers United

Their goals are outlined in their organizing committee letter, signed by nearly 80 HCLS employees.

Caitlin Felder, a teen instructor and research specialist, cited short staffing as a big reason for wanting to unionize.

“Right now, I can’t be as effective as I would like to be in my job because I can’t go out as often in the community due to short staffing. I really want to unionize so I can go to more school visits and meet teens outside of the branch. I look forward to the day where going out in the community doesn't put strain on staffing needs in the branch,” said Felder said.

Sara Bailey, a children’s instructor and research specialist, cited work-life balance.

“As much as I love my job, I also love spending time with my friends and family. Two days off a week, every week, is something all of us really need to recharge and give attention to the other things that we find important in life. Many of my co-workers often work seven days in a row with no time off,” Bailey said.

For Kyleigh Jimenez, another children’s instructor and research specialist, the ability to fight for adequate resources was key.

“I love forging lifelong relationships with the community. Some of the kids we’ve taught have become my colleagues in the workplace, and it makes me so proud seeing how far they come, and how far they’ll go. By unionizing, I can advocate for the resources I need to continue to do what I enjoy,” Jimenez said.

Worker input to improve the library was a motivating factor for Cherise Tasker, an instructor and research specialist.

“The library is one of the few places where all ages can gather, learn, and thrive through our free spaces, services, classes and resources. Unionizing will allow staff to contribute ideas to planning and resource allocation to ensure community needs are met and exceeded,” Tasker said.  

Gabriela Perez, a customer service specialist, simply wants a voice on the job.

“I want to be heard, I want to be seen. I want to have a voice in making the library more inclusive and accessible for us immigrants,” Perez said.

And for Chris Heady, a mobile unit driver and instruction assistant, forming a union would help workers better serve their community.

“I have always wanted to be a part of the library’s rich legacy of serving this community,” Heady said. “I grew up here and to see the ways I can have a direct and positive impact on our county’s bright future. … That gives me hope. By forming a union, we will be able to grow our impact and continue to build on HCLS’s legacy.”

Get Updates

For updates on the HoCo Library Workers United campaign, follow @hocolibrarywu on Facebook and @hoco_library_workers_united on Instagram. To sign their community support letter, visit the HoCo Library Workers United website.

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