Unionized Baltimore County library employees ratified their first contract over the weekend, several years after they began organizing.
The vote, held Sunday, was unanimous, said lead organizer Bridget Fitzgerald of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The one-year agreement covers about 460 full- and part-time employees of the 19-branch library system. They include nonmanagement staff in circulation, library information and administrative offices.
The contract includes a 3.8% pay increase starting this summer, plus a 3% cost-of-living increase next January. It increases paid leave for part-time employees, including for sick time and holidays. The agreement also recognizes workers’ right to union representation during questioning that could lead to discipline.
County library staff voted in December to form a union and join the Machinists union.
The pandemic has brought library workplace issues to the forefront, Fitzgerald said. At the same time, the crisis highlighted library workers’ role in the community, as they helped to distribute food, provide internet access and give out COVID-19 tests.
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“It’s not just a matter of helping you find a book,” she said. “They are a huge resource to the community.”
In a statement, Baltimore County Public Library Director Sonia Alcántara-Antoine said the library’s negotiation team worked with employees and union organizers to “create a contract that works for all parties.”
“We are pleased with the agreement and the staff choosing to ratify confirms they are equally pleased,” Alcántara-Antoine said. “We look forward to next steps, which include approvals by the Board of Library Trustees, the County Executive and the County Council for a July 1, 2022 implementation date.”
The pay increases in the contract were included in County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s budget proposal unveiled in April. The County Council is set to vote on the budget this month.
In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly approved a measure that enabled Baltimore County library employees to form a union.
Similar state legislation introduced this year would have done the same in Harford County — where library workers are also trying to unionize — but did not pass.
Fitzgerald said the Machinists union plans to seek statewide legislation to give library workers around Maryland a pathway to unionization and collective bargaining.