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Workers deliver big win for Illinois public library and the community it serves

Photo credit: AFSCME Council 31.
Workers deliver big win for Illinois public library and the community it serves
By AFSCME Council 31 ·

One day after a rally when more than 150 AFSCME members and their supporters spoke out against threatened cuts to library staff, services and hours in the suburb of Niles north of Chicago, the library board approved a budget plan that avoids the worst of the cuts.

"This is a real victory for the coalition of library workers, library users, local leaders and all who came together in recent weeks and months to support the library,” AFSCME Council 31 Organizing Director Abbey Davis said, referring to the July 20 rally. “While it's still very early and we'll have to be vigilant to see how the approved budget is implemented, the sponsor made clear that she did not support any reductions to staff, salaries, or library hours."

The board’s about-face was directly instigated by the immense public outcry. Besides the rally, nearly 2,000 people signed a petition to the board and dozens testified in support of library employees and services.

Library employees who recently organized their union with AFSCME helped drive the grassroots effort to save the library, along with allies like the Niles Coalition. This highlights the union difference when workers join together to build power.

“The library is all about our community, and this board wants to cut the programs that help us serve you all,” said AFSCME member and librarian Donna Block said at the rally. “They want to cut services like children’s librarians visiting schools and recommending materials for our students; they want to cut our teen AV collection; they want to cut the hours of our teen space; and they want to cut outreach deliveries to nursing homes and homebound patrons. Does that sound OK to you?”

The crowd responded with a resounding “No!”

Illinois state Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (both D-Chicago) stood with the library employees and the community at the rally.

“Libraries are for everybody – and when we say everybody, we mean everybody,” LaPointe said. “The last thing we want to do is take away a critical piece of community like our library or make it harder to access.”

Niles Mayor George Alpogianis also spoke against the cuts during the board’s public comment period. Minutes later, the budget amendment that should preserve staff, hours and service was unanimously approved.

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