November 02, 2022

Newberry Library employees win union election with AFSCME

The wave of cultural workers coming together to form new unions at Chicago-area libraries and museums is rolling on: In a National Labor Relations Board union election held on Nov. 1, employees of the Newberry Library voted to form Newberry Workers United/AFSCME.

More than 75% of votes cast were Yes for the union.

Newberry Workers United/AFSCME will represent more than 60 employees including conservators, librarians, library assistants, program coordinators and program assistants, among others.

In a public letter released in August, the Newberry employees’ organizing committee said that workers want better wages and benefits, safer working conditions and predictable schedules.

“We are proud to join workers at cultural institutions across the country who have organized and inspired us to use our collective power to improve our workplace,” they wrote.

AFSCME is the largest union for cultural workers, including more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries, and 10,000 museum workers at more than 90 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors across the country.

Staff of the Art Institute of Chicago and its affiliated school joined AFSCME in January, non-tenure-track faculty of the School of the Art Institute will have their union election by mail starting Nov. 8, and employees of the Field Museum recently launched their campaign to form Field Museum Workers United.

“Cultural workers are joining together with AFSCME to make their institutions better places to work, learn and visit for all,” Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “We’re proud to play a part in helping Newberry Library employees and all cultural workers have a voice in the decisions that impact their working lives.”

The Newberry is an independent research library that opened in 1887.

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