Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we forming our union at Pratt? Why AFSCME? 

We are organizing our union to establish a strong voice for all employees so that we can advocate for ourselves, our professions and our library. Our union will enable us to address important concerns like pay, benefits, workplace equity and greater transparency from our library administration. Through a legally binding contract, we will be able to negotiate our priorities with management and make the library the best it can be for employees, patrons and the community at large.

We are motivated by a number of serious issues at Pratt, including but not limited to:

  • Hiring, promotions and discipline, which are currently handled in an unfair and arbitrary manner that is often discriminatory, racist and sexist
  • Little or no communication with staff when it comes to serious decisions that negatively and sometimes permanently affect our work
  • Workers are kept siloed and isolated from one another
  • Part-time workers are paid poorly and receive no benefits
  • Workers, especially non-MLS-librarian workers, are seen as disposable or interchangeable, and are disregarded and disrespected by Management.
  • Non-MLS staff are often expected to perform MLS-librarian tasks at lower pay
  • Staff concerns about harassment, including sexual harassment, from patrons both in person and on the phone are dismissed
  • Staff concerns about physical safety in and around the Central Library building are also often dismissed
  • Library management has demonstrated numerous times a total disregard for the health and safety of workers and patrons, including:
    • throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
    • during the 3-year Central Library renovation in which they covered up the presence of asbestos in work areas
    • by keeping branch libraries open without appropriate heat or air conditioning
  • Library management makes decisions based on what they believe will attract media attention and excite wealthy donors, not what benefits workers or patrons
Together, we hope to make Pratt a better, more just place to work, and a library where workers are treated with respect and dignity. We see that our strength comes from standing together in solidarity. When we work together, Pratt will not only be better for workers but also for the people we serve.

What does the process of organizing a union look like? How long will it take? 

The first thing we need to do is talk to our co-workers and understand the issues and changes we want to see. Once we achieve supermajority support through signed union cards, we will seek formal recognition of our union, either through voluntary recognition or a union election. After we win our union, we will sit down with management and negotiate a contract that reflects our priorities. The process will go as quickly as we move it. What changes would you like to see at the library?

I don’t think we need a third party coming between us and management and telling us what to do.

We are the union. We vote to form our union. We will decide what to bargain for in our contract and who we will elect among our co-workers to become our local union officers. By joining AFSCME, we join 1.4 million other members who have our back and will support us, along with resources like experienced negotiators, attorneys, and researchers. 

Will dues reduce my paycheck?

We won't pay dues until we've voted on a union contract. One of the critical issues we're organizing around is better pay, so once we've voted on a contract that includes pay increases, then we'll start paying dues. Dues will be about $14 for part-time workers and $19 for full-time workers per paycheck. You will never have less money in your paycheck than you do now because of the union.

We’ve tried to form a union before and it hasn’t worked. Nobody will step up and do anything.

We can’t speak to any past efforts to form a union at EPFL, but we do know we need a voice in decisions that affect our lives and our professions. Many of our co-workers have expressed a desire to make the library more equitable and transparent. We can only make those changes by coming together and exercising our legal right to form our union. What changes do you want to see when we organize our union?

I have a good relationship with my supervisor...

That’s great. Many of us have good relationships with our supervisors, but this isn’t about them. This is about us having a voice. Supervisors change and are limited in what they can do for employees. When we form our union, we will advocate for institutional policies to be clearer and more consistent, which can actually make our supervisors' jobs more defined and our relationship even better.

Will we lose our flexibility with the union?

No one wants to lose the flexibility we currently have. It is illegal for the library to make any changes to the terms and conditions of our employment in retaliation for forming our union. In reality, management could take away that flexibility anytime without the presence of our union. Our union gives us the opportunity to secure our flexibility in a legally binding contract.

Will we have to go on strike if we form our union?

Strikes are rare. 98% of contracts are settled without going on strike. We are the only ones who would be able to authorize a strike, and even then we would need a strong majority of us to vote to do so. Management can’t make us strike - it is our decision to make as a union.

Management is finally listening and says they are going to fix things. I think we should give them a chance.

It is great that management is finally hearing us, and if they are sincere about making change, it shouldn’t be an issue to sit down with us, negotiate improvements and put them into a contract. Our union will help create policies and initiatives created by workers and for workers. We are the experts of what we need and should help determine the policies that impact us most. 

I think a staff association would make more sense. Do we need an outside party like AFSCME?

We are the union. We made the decision to form our union and we decide our priorities and elect our own leadership to uphold and enforce the contract. We are organizing with AFSCME because they bring the support of 1.4 million members and over 35,000 cultural workers who will stand with us as we make real changes in our workplace. AFSCME will also support us with legal, negotiating and political/lobbying expertise. 

Nationally, how do salaries of union workers compare to non-union workers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 non-union workers on average earned 81% of what union workers earned. This means that union workers had median weekly earnings of $1,095 while nonunion workers earned $892. That's a difference of $203 a week! That salary difference happens because union workers have a seat at the table to collectively bargain for better wages. Ultimately, our pay will be determined by the contract that we collectively bargain for and vote on once we have a union.

Will a union reduce my salary or my pension?

No. This is a worker-led movement that is focused on better working conditions and a living wage for all workers. We would never organize for something that would make our quality of life worse.

Are there any other public library systems in Maryland that have unionized?

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, the Montgomery County Public Library System and the Baltimore County Public Library System are already unionized. Howard County and Harford County are currently organizing for a union. The union movement is spreading across Maryland public library systems because workers know that they deserve better pay, benefits, and protections in the workplace!

What are salaries and benefits like at Maryland public libraries that are already unionized?

Prince George’s Memorial Library offers a comprehensive benefits package to full-time and part-time employees, including vacation leave, personal leave, sick leave, paid holidays, health insurance, retirement/pension plans, free parking, and paid meals for those working on Saturdays. A recent job posting for an entry-level Library Associate with a Bachelor’s Degree in that system offers a salary of $46,688. At the Pratt, an entry-level Librarian with a Master’s Degree starts at $44,263. That’s $2,425 less!

Additionally, Baltimore County Public Library workers just ratified a contract that raises wages across the board by 3.8% and includes an additional 3% cost of living increase. The contract also increases paid leave for part-time employees, including sick time and holidays.