Library workers call for more input

A coalition of at least 70 library workers, most of whom are members of Yale’s clerical and technical union, started a leafletting campaign on Wednesday, demanding that they receive a greater say in budgetary decisions.

Members of the group took to Cross Campus yesterday, passing out fliers that decried library administrators’ poor communication and hiring practices. But library officials quickly rebutted these claims, saying that there have been several opportunities for library employees to have a voice on issues regarding the budget and adding that the library will hire temporary workers as infrequently as possible. They also said the flyers paint an inaccurate picture of the job reductions.

The first page of the leaflet Local 34 distributed Tuesday, September 1, in front of the entrances to Sterling Memorial Library and Bass Library.
The first page of the leaflet Local 34 distributed Tuesday, September 1, in front of the entrances to Sterling Memorial Library and Bass Library.
The second page of the leaflet Local 34 distributed.
The second page of the leaflet Local 34 distributed.

Still, the campaign illustrates the frustrations of some workers resulting from recent University personnel cuts. By the time department budgets were finalized in June, 100 employees had been laid off Universitywide.

Insufficient input during the decision-making process, the workers claim, has caused short-staffing across the various library departments. This in turn has forced some services to slow to a standstill, or be eliminated altogether, they said.

“We are gravely concerned that staff reductions will compromise the security of our collections and the quality of our services,” the group’s flier stated.

The group’s members are also decrying the library’s hiring of temporary workers, instead of the hiring of more full-time employees.

But library officials said they virtually stopped employing temporary workers in June, noting that the budget cuts in recent months have forced to them to drop almost all temporary workers on their payrolls.

University Librarian Alice Prochaska criticized the campaign: “I don’t honestly see what a leafletting campaign can achieve, because there are limits with what we can do.”

Prochaska said many workers have been supportive of library managers as they cut 10 percent in personnel costs from their budgets.

Prochaska also said she had hosted several well-attended meetings on the budget situation in the spring, and that she continues to host office hours and appointments with workers.

The flyer distributed Wednesday — the first of many to be distributed over the next couple of weeks — recounted an anecdote from a former library worker, Oliver Schowalter-Hay GRD ’07, in an interview. Schowalter-Hay, whose temporary position was eliminated during the summer, said he was laid off illegally.

But library officials do not call it a layoff, which they agree would have been illegal because he was a member of Local 34. Rather, Prochaska said, they were “letting his term [as a temporary employee] expire.” When Schowalter-Hay completed his term, officials decided not to extend his stay, effectively forcing him out of a job and into Local 34’s Interim Employment Pool.

Schowalter-Hay recently lost a grievance hearing on whether to call his leave a layoff, but he may appeal the ruling to an arbitrator in the near future. The flyer seemed to suggest that library officials treated him unfairly.

“You got laid off. You serious?” Thain Family Cafe retail specialist and Local 35 member Alice Villups, in an interview, remembered saying to Schowalter-Hay. “It’s not good what [the administration is] doing.”

Still, group members said some University-union dialogue does exist. Best Practices, an initiative established by the administration and unions to increase collaboration, established joint committees to facilitate discussions between union workers and Yale officials. Nevertheless, Amelia Prostano, an assistant at the acquisitions department for Beinecke Library, said she believes more can be done. Prochaska responded by saying that she welcomes more input from library employees.

For now, the leafletting campaign will continue. A new flier will be handed out today featuring IT library worker Kerry Alles.

Comments

  • First Year Grad

    If what Schowalter-Hay claims is true, the University should be gravely concerned. Here’s the part of the flier that caught my eye:

    “My department compiled a report concluding that it would take a full-time cataloger 24 years to complete the needed work. Given the importance of this work to both collection security and patron access, I was dismayed that my position was ended – both for myself, and for the collection.”

  • What layoff?

    Schowalter-Hay’s position was temporary. He knew that when he applied for it, because it clearly says on job postings what kind of position it is. He knew that a temporary position may or may not be extended for another term. If he wasn’t willing to work knowing there is a chance of the position being ended, then why take the job in the first place?

  • divinity

    What layoff?

    I spoke with Schowalter-Hay outside SML. He actually is not asking for his position back. What he told me is that union members are trying to reverse the library’s practice of hiring temporary workers, simply out of respect for the University’s collection. It didn’t seem like a personal thing.