Workers call on Yale to end subcontracting of library work
In Tuesday protest, library workers deliver a book to the Provost’s office and call for an end to subcontracting.
Sai Rayala, Contributing Photographer
In a Tuesday protest, Yale’s library workers offered their own gift to the University’s capital campaign — a book symbolizing their demand to end subcontracting.
Library workers from Local 34, the University’s union of clerical and technical workers, gathered at the Provost’s office at 2 Whitney Ave. to demand that Yale end the subcontracting of library work. Through subcontracting, the University pays outside firms to carry out specific work for the institution by utilizing the outside company’s employees. As part of their “donation” to Yale’s capital campaign, the workers delivered a book to the provost’s office consisting of 148 photos with personal stories from library staff on why Yale should not be subcontracting its library work.
“[Despite] its $7 billion campaign, they’re choosing to send Beinecke collections to be processed by subcontractors instead of investing in growing their staff,” Ann DeLauro, the vice-president of Local 34, said during the event. “That’s why we’re here today. To make our donation to Yale’s campaign.”
DeLauro said that library workers had been fighting against subcontracting since 2019, when Yale had initially announced an outsourcing initiative. She added that because of the union’s past campaigns, its most recent contract with Yale includes first-time language against subcontracting that “gives them a foot in the door.” According to the new union contract, Yale has to give a 90-day notice before subcontracting union employees’ work, and the University is required to negotiate its plans with Local 34.
But DeLauro said that despite the “incredible contract” that “secured their economic standard for the next five years,” the work of the unions and the workers was not over yet.
“We know that the fight doesn’t end when we sign the contract,” DeLauro told the crowd. “Subcontracting is still happening now.”
According to Julia Salseda-Angeles, a researcher for Local 34, Yale is paying millions to subcontract the special collections of Beinecke to two companies: Backstage Library Works and Winthrop Group. Backstage Library Works, based in Pennsylvania, provides a range of specialized services to library collections, such as digitization and microfilm services. The Winthrop Group — based in New York — provides information, archival services and consulting, among other benefits.
University spokesperson Karen Peart told the news that Yale “is acting within its rights.”
“Yale is resuming a project started three years ago to make a backlog of new collections more readily available for scholarship and research,” Peart said. “The project was paused at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new union agreement provides guidance for how such projects will be handled in the future.”
Lynell Graham, who works at Yale’s Coordination, Appointment, Referral and Engagement Center, or CARE, spoke at the event. Graham helped negotiate the recent union contract, which explicitly protects CARE workers from subcontracting layoffs.
“I live in New Haven,” Graham told the News. “I pay taxes in New Haven. I’ve been in New Haven all my life. And to watch Yale grow so many other areas instead of what belongs here in this town that they actually work in — they need to give it back.”
Amelia Prostano, who has been working at the Beinecke Library for around 40 years, also expressed her concerns with library work being subcontracted to outside firms. She said that the local library workers have “loyalty” to the libraries and collections.
“I just can’t imagine that they would subcontract precious books from the Beinecke,” Prostano told the News. “There’s no need for it. They should hire local, train people.”
After delivering the book to a representative at the Provost’s office, the action ended with chants of “Read the book,” “If we don’t get it … shut it down” and “We’ll be back.”
Local 34 represents 3,700 University clerical and technical workers.