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Workers at Pratt libraries in Baltimore join AFSCME Cultural Workers United

Photo Credit: Kathleen Cancio.
By Kathleen Cancio ·
Tags: Victories

Months after workers at the neighboring Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) won their union, workers at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) made history by being the latest union to organize under AFSCME Cultural Workers United.

An official vote count from the mail ballot election took place Nov. 18, with workers successfully voting 218-12 to join together as Pratt Workers United. The new bargaining unit will now represent approximately 330 workers from EPFL system’s 22 library branches throughout the city of Baltimore.

Workers first announced their intent to unionize with AFSCME Council 67 on June 1 and cited better wages, a safer working environment, consistency in hiring and promotion processes at the library and an overall desire for respect as primary motivations for organizing. Although Pratt Workers United was able to demonstrate majority support for a union at EPFL, the Board of Trustees and Directors rejected a request to voluntarily recognize the union and instead signed an agreement for a union election through the American Arbitration Association.

Throughout the organizing process, workers received an incredible showing of support from local community members, businesses and library workers throughout the country. A community letter of support posted on PWU’s website garnered over 700 signatures, the majority of which came shortly after the campaign went public.

At the conclusion of the election, workers gathered at AFSCME Council 67’s Union Hall to celebrate the results of the vote count together. When news broke that the library workers had won their union by a 95% vote, Mase Woodland, who works in the collections department at EPFL’s Central Branch, was excited about the future of the library.  

“Winning a union is something we have been working toward for a long time. Now that it's happened, I'm excited to work with everyone who fought for, supported and showed up to make our union a reality, to make our library a workplace that we deserve,” Woodland said.

Sharing Woodland’s excitement over the idea of a more inclusive library, Julie Saylor, who also works at Central Branch as a library associate said, "It is time all staff had a more active role in deciding how we work and how best to service the public. I look forward to open, honest communication with our leadership. With a union, we finally have a voice!”

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