The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and its allies testified this week on House Bill 65/Senate Bill 0352 in front of the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Maryland State Del. Ben Barnes. This legislation, introduced by Maryland State Del. Steve Johnson and cross-filed in the Senate by State Sen. Nancy King, continues the Machinists Union’s campaign to organize state library workers, as it successfully did with Baltimore County public library workers.
The bipartisan legislation would provide a consistent process for employees of unorganized public library systems in Maryland to form a union and collectively bargain.
— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) January 31, 2023
HB65/SB0352 does not guarantee union organizing or require library system employees to form a union. HB65/SB0352 enables Maryland library workers to organize for union representation, should they wish to do so.
“This is a statewide bill for all Maryland library employees,” said Del. Johnson. “The legislation is not a union bill; this bill is a constitutional rights bill. It’s our job as legislators to ensure that every citizen in Maryland can exercise their constitutional rights. It creates a legal pathway for library workers to join a union.”
“HB65/SB0352 creates a delegation of authority from the state to the country library, systems created by the state even to be able to enter into a collective bargaining agreement,” said IAM Associate General Counsel Laura Ewan. “Doing it on a county-by-county basis is ineffective, inefficient, and asks for inconsistencies for how library employees can gain union representation. “It’s a common sense approach that would allow these employees to access that constitutionally protected right to do it statewide.”
In 2022, the IAM ratified its first collective bargaining agreement covering 460 Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) employees. The one-year collective bargaining agreement, which BCPL employees overwhelmingly ratified in May, includes pay increases and paid leave, among other significant improvements.
“HB65/SB0352 will provide a constant and consistent process for my colleagues in other county library systems to organize for collective bargaining rights,” said Anita Bass, IAM BCPL United Local Lodge President and BCPL Circulation Assistant III at the Essex branch. “In our first contract, we negotiated wage increases, improved benefits for our part-time staff, and created the labor-management committee. Having a union isn’t a promise of perfection, but it is an avenue for staff to have a voice and participate in the process.”
The plight of BCPL workers seeking a pathway to organize also gained the attention of President Biden, who invited a BCPL member to speak before the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment.
“Non-management library staff makes up the majority of the library’s workforce, yet we currently have no power when it comes to making decisions that directly affect us,” said Megan Baker, not yet a union member, 18-year library employee, and Marketing & Communications Specialist at Harford County Public Library. “Instead, we are expected to trust our library leadership with no questions asked. I believe that even the possibility of having a union will change that, and personally, I would rather try to fix the parts of my workplace that are broken rather than leave a job that I love.”
Supporters of HB65/SB0352 will also testify before the Maryland Senate Finance committee on Thursday, February 16.