Camden County Library Support Staff, members of CWA Local 1014, held demonstrations during National Library Week to voice their demands for a fair contract. In solidarity, CWA members were joined by County librarians —members of AFSCME Local 1454— with whom Support Staff work side by side with every day.
Two early-morning rallies were held outside a branch of the Camden County Library in Voorhees, New Jersey. The rallies united over 50 library workers from 8 branch locations in support of each other. The contracts for both CWA’s and AFSCME’s bargaining units expired in December 2015.
As a unit overwhelmingly made up of women, Local 1014 is fighting for pay equity. The union’s bargaining committee has proposed a $15 an hour minimum wage, as many workers are paid a starting salary of $9 an hour or less. Three-fourths of Library Support Staff are part-time employees, and 65 percent of them make less than $15 an hour. Camden County Library System has been recognized for being the highest-rated county service, yet Library workers are one of the lowest paid in the county.
“Last time I checked, the electric company is not going to take a bag of Doritos as payment, and a Snickers bar is not going to help fund your retirement,” said Amber Pallante, a senior library assistant at South County Regional Branch in Atco, to demonstrators. “I defy the Freeholders and any County Administrator to try to live on less than $15 an hour in this economy.”
Julie Tozer, President of AFSCME Local 1454 and a librarian at Rutgers University Downtown Branch in Camden voiced the solidarity and power between the two unions. “The county is trying to pit us against each other and we’re going to tell them it is time to think that over. We work hard and represent Camden County well every single day and now we are asking to be fairly compensated for that work.”
In addition, in recent years library workers have worked in increasingly challenging work environments. Camden County Library System is the sixth-busiest of 298 libraries in the state and fifth-busiest among the 14 county library systems in New Jersey. Library staff has been reduced, forcing additional duties to be placed on workers and in some branches security has been cut. Workers attest to often skipping breaks in order to keep up with visitor volume in their libraries.
Library workers support Camden County residents at every stage of life. From early literacy to workforce development and technology education for seniors. These workers deserve a fair contract that improves their standard of living.