Library Employees Picket Over Union Contract
Staff Report, 07-17-2019

Cuyahoga Falls Library employee union members picket outside the library on July 16th.
Stephen Mulé
Members of the Professionals Guild of Ohio Council 3—the Cuyahoga Falls Library employee union—began picketing on Tuesday over the lack of a union contract. Picketers distributed literature detailing their concerns ahead of the Library's Board of Trustees meeting.

According to the literature, the union has been in negotiations since October of 2018, and the library's negotiation expenses exceed the desired pay raise for 2019 and a portion of 2020. The raise amount desired is 3% or $0.50 per hour—whichever is greater—and the literature also goes into detail about the current wages of the union employees, reporting that 10 of the 27 union workers are paid less than $10 per hour and 11 more make less than $14 per hour. These wages are not, the literature says, affected by seniority, merit, education, or cost of living.

Meanwhile, Library Director Valerie Kocin reportedly makes over six figures herself, and her salary combined with what the distributed union literature calls “non-union ‘leadership’ positions”—four in total—amounts to over $227,000, which is around 17% of annual salaries. On the other hand, 27 union positions are paid around $515,000 total per year, which averages out to less than $20,000 per position.

The literature goes on to say that full-time union positions have been cut to part-time, which breaks a previous agreement and reneges on arbitration that the union conceded to proceed to negotiations in good faith. Moreover, non-union positions have reportedly been created and/or “enhanced” and union positions have not been filled apparently as a negotiation tactic.

The union literature piece stresses that the “union workers take pride in their work” but “fear the ongoing negotiations along with other directives from the Director negatively impact the employees, the Library, and its community.”

“We love our library, and providing the services we do for our patrons,” Union President Amy Jo Walker added, “and we look forward to continue serving them.” Nevertheless, she said, “we do intend to continue to picket until we come to a conclusion.” She said her concerns surround the fact that union workers “have been negotiating this contract for 10 months.” Moreover, she said, “We have some full time staff, who are working in their field, who still struggle to make ends meet, including even buying groceries. Employees also have more responsibilities than ever, and we feel we should be compensated for that. We also want to keep open full-time job opportunities.” She said she encourages members of the public to show their support by attending board meetings on the third Tuesday of the month at 7pm in the library.

The Falls Free Press will follow this story and update this article with any additional information or commentary from the Library, the Board of Trustees, or the union.

© 2020   Falls Free Press