December 08, 2020

New AFSCME members at Oak Lawn Public Library

Oak Lawn Public Library employees have formed a union with AFSCME Council 31. The nearly 80 librarians, library assistants, library associates and pages voted to join the union and filed their petition with the Illinois Labor Relations Board in October.

They join more than 3,000 other Illinois AFSCME members who work in libraries.

One of the main reasons they wanted to unionize was to improve safety for themselves and library patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There were a lot of problems we couldn’t fix ourselves,” library assistant Eric Guzman told the Daily Southtown newspaper. “Everything felt like we weren’t being heard. One of the ways we thought we could get heard is through the union.”

The workers felt a heightened sense of urgency after a security officer died in April after being sickened with COVID-19 but management didn’t tell other staff to quarantine or get tested.

Soon after the employees filed for their union, management announced budget cuts. But at the same time, “they are wasting precious library resources fighting our legal right to union representation,” employees said in an online petition that urges community members to call on the library board to stop cuts to the library and legal roadblocks to union representation.

“We are nine months into a global pandemic and there are so many people struggling and in need of community services,” the petition states. “This is the absolute wrong time to be taking resources away from those who need it most to fight our legal right to have a real voice on the job.”

“I love this library,” Guzman said. “We serve the public. [Having a union] will help us provide better service.” 

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