The Baltimore County Council passed a resolution on Sep. 6 to finalize the remaining details of the first collective bargaining agreement covering about 460 Baltimore County Public Library employees.
“I thank the Baltimore County Council members for voting to pass this resolution, which finalizes a contract that gives BCPL workers a voice in the workplace, as well as the strong wages and benefits they greatly deserve,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr., said in a statement. “I also thank Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr., for his continued support of these BCPL workers, who are so important to the growth and prosperity of Baltimore County and its residents.” Library employees voted to join the union in December 2021.
The resolution the council passed approved the portions of the contract not finalized until after the county’s budget deadline for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The one-year collective bargaining agreement was ratified by BCPL employees in May. The first contract with BCPL comes after years of organizing, which included a new state law approved by the General Assembly during the 2021 legislative session that allows BCPL employees to collectively bargain. The IAM had lobbied for the law.
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 disciplinary action.
Advocates had urged the council to support the resolution. Martinez wrote a letter to the council, and Maureen David, president of the BCPL board of trustees, and other supporters urged passage at an Aug. 30 council work session.
Baltimore County Public Library employees began organizing activities in 2019 when they approached the union and said they were seeking better working conditions, said Bridget Fitzgerald, IAM grand lodge representative and lead organizer of the BCPL campaign.
“The employees have been committed to this process from the very beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “They had a lot to overcome, given we started in 2019, which was pre-COVID. Since then, they have been changing working conditions, and they were front line workers. When many of us were on lockdown, they were providing the service they love to provide which confirmed for them why they needed a union.”
The machinists’ union plans to seek statewide legislation to give library workers around Maryland a pathway to unionization and collective bargaining.