Sam Allard / Scene
SEIU and community members rally for library workers on Public Square, (12/13/19).
After a nearly unanimous vote to authorize a strike earlier this month, library workers with the Service Employees International Union 1199 (SEIU) have notified the Cleveland Public Library administration of their intent to strike. They'll walk off their posts and picket every CPL location beginning Feb. 4 at noon if an agreement on a new three-year contract is not reached before then.
Contract negotiations have been ongoing for months. A bargaining session was held on Jan. 17, after the strike authorization vote on Jan. 8, but the vote "didn't seem to light a fire under the library at all," said Terry Metter, a librarian at CPL's Center for Local and Global History and a member of SEIU's bargaining team.
"The library has claimed we didn't offer solutions to short staffing," Metter told Scene. "That is untrue. We had proposals from the very beginning of negotiations through the end of the day on Jan. 17. We tried to be creative and meet the library in the middle on a number of items that would have helped with staffing problems, but they didn't seem to want to work with us. Multiple members of their team left early on multiple days."
SEIU maintains that the proposals offered to date by CPL administration would outsource local jobs and make it more difficult for front line staffers, who have already been forced to provide increased services with fewer resources in recent years.
Jan. 23 will be the library's final opportunity to negotiate before the strike. While two additional days of bargaining have been scheduled for Feb. 10 and Feb. 11, those will be too late to prevent the workers' action.
The library has maintained that its bargaining team is committed to negotiating in good faith. A spokeswoman said, after SEIU's strike authorization vote, that the library would temporarily close branches and suspend programs in the event of a strike.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.