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Baltimore County library workers deserve right to form a union | READER COMMENTARY

Rizwana Malik, a circulation assistant at the Cockeysville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, works in the library's quarantine room, where library materials are stored for 72 hours before being released for circulation. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun).
Rizwana Malik, a circulation assistant at the Cockeysville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, works in the library's quarantine room, where library materials are stored for 72 hours before being released for circulation. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun). (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore County Public Library employees are passionate about improving the quality of life in our community. The pandemic has been challenging, but they adapted to provide quality remote and contact-free services and deliver educational enrichment activities for children. The library has been serving the public at a limited capacity since last fall.

Baltimore County delegation members in the Maryland General Assembly can show their appreciation for these dedicated Baltimore County library employees by supporting Senate Bill 138. The bill would give them the right to form a union, a voice in the workplace and a chance to bargain for the working conditions they deserve (”Baltimore County librarians seek to unionize through legislation that’s going before General Assembly,” Jan. 12).

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BCPL employees have sacrificed to take care of our community during this pandemic crisis. But not all employees have the protections to keep them safe during this pandemic. In the process of maintaining this vital community service, some employees in the library system contracted COVID-19.

Yet, almost half of the library staff don’t have access to health care, vision or dental insurance. Imagine the fear that some of BCPL staff deal with every day by not having employer health insurance. The desire to join a union reflects how management has failed to safeguard their employees.

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BCPL employees want a say in their future and an avenue to address workplace concerns. They face inconsistent workplace policies and unreliable communication. The pandemic environment amplifies these challenges.

They reached out to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to resolve these challenges. These employees simply demand safe working conditions while they serve the Baltimore County community. Library employees in neighboring Prince George’s and Montgomery counties already have the right to bargain collectively.

We are disappointed that the BCPL Board of Trustees hired lobbyists to silence library staff and advocate against their right to collective bargaining. The campaign waged by the trustees is more than an effort to deny BCPL employees rights. In fact, their efforts weaken democracy in our state and our county. The Baltimore County delegation should send a resounding message that Baltimore County won’t tolerate the mistreatment of our heroic library staff.

Please support the people who helped our beloved community cope during this pandemic. I urge Baltimore County lawmakers to help give a voice to our Baltimore County Public Library employees by voting “Yes” on Senate Bill 138.

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Dora Cervantes, Upper Marlboro

The writer is general secretary-treasurer for the 600,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the first Latina to serve on the IAM’s executive council.

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