On Wednesday, October 21st, 50 library workers, union members and residents joined us at the Hennepin County Library Board Meeting to voice our concerns regarding the 2016 Proposed Library Operating Budget. Thanks to all of you who were able to make it and to those of you who lent moral support!
Lynn Stetler, President of Local 2822, and Mary Steinbicker of Local 2864, and Ali Fuhrman of Local 2822 each gave a brief statement to the Board while Library Director Lois Thompson sat next to us. See video below and text of speeches under "read more."
Our message was clear: we want 10 new FTE dedicated to front-line staff and a $15 base wage for all Library workers. Many of the Board members were receptive to our message.
Speech by Alessandra Fuhrman, PSA, local 2822
Speech by Mary Steinbicker, Librarian, Vice President local 2864
Speech by Lynn Stetler, Associate Librarian, President of local 2822
Presentation to Hennepin County Library Board 10/21/2015
Central Library, 5pm
Alessandra Fuhrman, PSA
Hello, my name is Alessandra Fuhrman and I've worked for Hennepin County Library as a Public Service Assistant for the past four years. I'm here today with a group of library workers and county residents to voice our concerns regarding the Library's 2016 Proposed Operating Budget.
Last month County Administrator, David Hough proposed a 4.5 % tax levy to increase County staffing levels and wages for county workers. We do not feel the Library's current proposal reflects this initiative.
To provide excellent services to the residents of Hennepin County we need properly staffed buildings and fairly compensated employees.
In 2014 the library added 249 open hours without increasing staff. A year and a half later front-line staff is dealing with the consequences of that decision. Many of the smaller libraries have only two Public Service Assistants scheduled for a given day: one sick call means either one of two things: someone works alone or someone is pulled from another library, usually a library with similar staffing shortages. Our current staffing levels are unsafe and fail to meet the needs of our patrons.
The 2016 Proposed Operating Budget offers no relief, in fact in exacerbates our existing problems. This Budget does not include additional staff to support expanded hours. Of the 10 new requested FTE's, 6.5 are dedicated to Administrative Departments with only 3.5 going to direct services. The exisiting proposal also fails to provide for the expanded Brooklyn Park Library, scheduled to open next year. To accommodate the larger space, Brooklyn Park will need 10 additional FTE, the majority of which will come from other buildings, furthering existing staffing shortages around the System. The current budget represents a cut to front-line staff when our services are needed more than ever.
The Proposal also fails to provide for a needed pay increase to the lSystem's largest and lowest paid job class, Public Service Assistants. Currently, it takes a Public Service Assistant almost five years to make $15 an hour. With the new one desk service model PSA's are providing services that were once solely the domain of professional librarians. We are answering reference questions, providing computer assistance, handling meeting rooms and computer reservations, assisting people in need of social services and immediate medical assistance. Our current hourly wage does not reflect the level of knowledge and expertise our job requires.
Instead of allocating money to bring PSA's up to a living wage, the proposal increases the collection budget by 10%. Library workers are big library users, but after two years of aggressive weeding, and thousands of withdrawn books, it's hard to see how this is a prudent use of our resources. Shelf space is finite and we already lack space to accommodate new materials. We are dedicating $646,128 to buying materials we have no room for when half that amount could bring all library workers up to $15 an hour.
To continue to provide excellent services to the residents of Hennepin County we need at least 10 additional FTE's dedicated to direct services and $15 an hour. We love our patrons and we take care of them. They deserve properly staffed libraries. We deserve a living wage.
Lynn Stetler, Associate Librarian
President Local 2822
My name is Lynn Stetler and I am the President of AFSCME local 2822 representing clerical and related workers in Hennepin County. We are the 2nd largest AFSCME local in Hennepin County and we have about 1300 workers. We have workers in EVERY county worksite. I am an Associate Librarian at the Hopkins Library. I’m here today to speak on behalf of support staff workers at the Library who are mainly Public Service Assistants but also Office Specialist IIIs’, Principals Office Specialists, and Associate Librarians. We are currently in contract negotiations with the Employer and we hope to reach a tentative agreement in November.
We have two main concerns on the library front—a $15.00 NOW proposal which is asking that anyone working for less than $15.00 an hour be brought up to $15.00 /hour with the approval of this new contract. In my union local, we have 10 job classes whose starting wage is less than $15.00/hr. The majority of this group are our Public Service Assistants. Can you imagine what it’s like to have your starting wage be $12.82/hour?
These are our front line workers who are being asked to do more and more every day. We have had meet and confer language in our contract to address the proper staffing levels and job classes at the library for at least 4 years. We are being asked to continue this discussion over the next course of this contract. We recognize that these are difficult discussions, we hear what you are saying but we are still working on the staffing strategy. And nothing happens.
But we have also seen top management recently receive very large promotions and large salary increases.
When does the REAL conversation begin about the REAL work that is being done by these most underpaid workers? Will we be at the table or will we be on the menu?
I am celebrating 40 years at Hennepin County Library in November. I have been a committed library worker for all that time and have seen much change. But what I don’t see is these front line workers receive fair compensation and that is so wrong. Library workers deserve a living wage. The current budget does not reflect the need for increased staffing and the need for livable wages.
We are here today to ask for more staff and that that they be compensated adequately. I was at the Library budget presentation to the County Board. When questioned by the Board, County Board Jan Callison said this budget is not sustainable. I most hardily agree.