CUYAHOGA FALLS — Library employees took to the sidewalks outside the 3rd Street branch on Tuesday, just hours after their union turned down an offer that would have provided 2.5% annual pay increases over the life of a new three-year contract.

The contract between the library and Professionals Guild of Ohio Council 3, representing just over two dozen workers, expired at the end of last year. According to library Director Valerie Kocin, there are 17 part-time and 10 full-time union members.

In a release, Kocin said there have been a total of 10 bargaining sessions, five with the assistance of a mediator. While the library is offering 2.5% annual wage increases, the union is seeking 3% increases, or 40 cents per hour, whichever is greater, for workers.

Kocin said part-time aides responsible for shelving books would get 40 cents per hour more under the union proposal, which would be a 4.5% wage increase.

“The library has an obligation to be a good steward of the finances of the library and to manage expenditures appropriately to meet the needs of the entire organization, its patrons, and the community,” she said in the release.

In a flier handed out at the informational picketing session Tuesday, the union says the demand is for 3% or 50 cents per hour, along with protection of full-time positions.

“Basically, we’re just asking for fair wages and to keep the full-time job opportunities,” said union President Amy Walker. She said at least two full-time positions have recently been converted to part time.

In its flier, the union said that "$15 per hour is being nationally considered for minimum wage, the requested raises would keep many of our employees at less than $11.50 through 2020.”

Kocin said Cuyahoga Falls employees are paid more than employees at “comparable libraries,” according to a comparison survey of wages paid by other area libraries. She said the average minimum and maximum rates for the shelver position in comparable libraries are $8.52 and $10.77, respectively, while the current minimum and maximum rates paid by Cuyahoga Falls Library are $8.98 and $12.29, respectively.

She added the 2.5% proposal is the same as the increase recently approved for the library’s non-union staff.

“The union is not willing to accept the same increase the managers received,” she said in an interview.

Walker noted that while the pay scale may be higher than other libraries, many of the workers have not been long with the library, with a majority of workers earning less than $14 per hour. She noted there has been a large turnover rate over the past couple of years, since Kocin was hired as director in 2016.

The union alleges that in addition to cutting full-time union positions to part time, Kocin has “created and enhanced” non-union positions, in addition to allegedly withholding employment of union positions as a negotiation tactic.

“Part of the reason we’re asking for 3% is that since she has been here, we have more responsibilities added to our jobs since before she started, and we have less staff members — she hasn’t filled all the positions when people have left. We really want to be compensated for the extra work that we’re doing that we never did before,” Walker said.

Kocin denied withholding employment, or leaving positions unfilled and said the two jobs that were made part time were done two years ago — well before contract negotiations started — to improve flexibility in staffing.

She also noted technology changes means job duties have shifted, as more electronic books circulate, hard-copies require less handling. Also, the library now has a Maker Space, leading to different job requirements. She noted union staff worked 400 more hours last year than the previous year, so part timers had the opportunity to work more.

“Management has been willing since April 10 to meet again and the union would not come to the table. When they came to the table on Tuesday, they were not willing to negotiate,” she said. “They came in, they said ‘These are our demands,’ and they were not willing to negotiate.”

Walker said she is not clear what will happen next and that the union is not currently considering a strike.

“It’s been discussed, but nothing serious at this point,” she said.

As of Thursday, no further meetings have been scheduled to discuss contract terms.

 

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or emarotta@recordpub.com.