The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME, which represents city library workers, is calling on the city to return to a 48-hour operating week for branch libraries. Also, AFSCME wants the city to rehire more than 100 laid off Chicago Public Library employees.
AFSCME held a “People’s Library Hours” rally outside three closed neighborhood branches this morning to push for the restoration of hours and jobs.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Saturday that the city would partly reopen branch libraries on Mondays, reversing a decision made two weeks ago to close branch libraries all day Monday. But library workers and AFSCME say that's not enough.
“We are going to keep pushing to finish the job,” says Anders Lindall, spokesman of AFSCME Local 31.
Lindall participated in the demonstration outside of the Bucktown branch library on a blustery morning as a few dozen attendees tempted passers-by with hot chocolate on the sidewalk and persuaded a steady stream of passing cars to honk their support. AFSCME also staged protests outside the Little Village and Beverly branch libraries. The protest included library employees as well as patrons from the community.
The 2012 city budget passed by the Chicago City Council 50-0 in November called for the layoffs of 184 of 1,128 full-time library employees and the reduction of branch library hours, from 48 to 40, during the school year. However, these reductions were contingent on AFSCME’s approval.
Emanuel raised the ire of AFSCME – and several aldermen – when the Chicago Public Library announced January 5 - without the union’s consultation - that the eight-hour reduction would come by closing branch libraries on Mondays. In response, AFSCME filed a grievance with the Chicago Public Library.
Then – again, without union consultation – Emanuel said Saturday that branch libraries would be open for four hours on Monday afternoons and all day Monday during the summer. Also, the city is set to rehire 65 laid off library workers and transfer 25 employees at the Harold Washington central library to branch locations.
The mayor says he has reallocated more than $2 million in resources to public libraries.
Lindall said today that the city has still failed to get in touch with AFSCME, adding that more still needs to be done in addressing the issue. “The mayor has taken this in the right direction,” Lindall says. “He found $2 million of the $3 million that was needed, so let’s find that other million.”
The seemingly haphazard process of the city enacting and reversing library cuts has left some library employees confused.
Mosey Carter, a clerk at Harold Washington Library, said she doesn’t know if she will be transferred to a branch library. “We’re not exactly sure who the 25 people getting bounced are and where they are going to [go],” she said at today's rally.