Wednesday, October 7, 2015

“What Will Remain Will Not Be Worth the Name Library” - Barnet Council Library Workers Strike

Library and other workers in Barnet Council went on strike again today as part of a series of strikes and campaigns in protest of plans to outsource library services. The Council released a report last week detailing significant layoffs and other cuts to services. In response to the report, Hugh Jordan, the union's library convenor, said “what will remain will not be worth the name library.” Council employees are represented by UNISON.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teachers and Support Staff in Ontario Work-To-Rule

Support workers in schools across Ontario are engaged in a work-to-rule campaign as their union continues to engage in negotiations with the province. Workers have been given lists by their unions of duties they should not carry out during this campaign. For library workers, this includes training volunteers, setting up book fairs, and preparing for classes. Elementary school teachers across the province are also engaged in a work-to-rule campaign. School support workers are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, while elementary teachers are represented by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

End to Strike in Seattle

On Sunday, members of the Seattle Education Association voted to end their strike action and ratify a new contract with the Seattle School District. As part of the new contract, teachers will receive wage increases and students receive a guaranteed minimum of thirty minutes of recess.

Library Closures and Lay-Offs in Kirklees

Despite the efforts of Unite Community in petitioning against lay-offs and closures in Kirklees Council, cabinet ministers there have approved a plan to close two of the council's twenty-six library locations and possibly eliminate 88 full-time equivalent positions. Only eight of the remaining libraries will be staffed by librarians and funded by the council. The other sixteen libraries will rely on volunteers and a single council employee at each location. All mobile library services have been eliminated.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sandwich Public Library Unionizing

Workers at Sandwich Public Library in Sandwich, Massachusetts are unionizing, joining the American Federation of Teachers. According to the library director, the move to unionize is related to a recent change to personnel policies that made the library's policies consistent with those governing other non-unionized town employees.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why are School Librarians on Strike in Seattle?

The Seattle Education Association collective bargaining unit consists of classroom teachers, librarians, counselors, speech therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and instructional assistants. SEA, plus its affiliate school office workers’ union, Seattle Association of Educational Office Professionals (SAEOP) negotiate contracts together with the administration of Seattle Public Schools.  SAEOP members have a no-strike clause in their contract, so they are not on strike, but they did vote in support of the strike.

Negotiations began in May 2015.  SEA/SAEOP’s negotiating team presented a list of demands:  pay; a fair evaluation process; reasonable testing;workload relief; equity for students in areas of the opportunity gap, discipline, and recess at elementary schools.

Throughout the summer, SPS negotiators demanded one thing: an increase in the workday without an increase in pay.

Where do negotiations stand now?

Recess – After the strike vote on Sept. 3, SPS agreed on 30 minutes of recess at all elementary schools.  The amount of recess children had varied school-to-school from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.  The lesser amount was mostly at schools in poorer neighborhoods.

Substitute teachers – Some of the demands concerning substitutes have been agreed to.

Negotiations have resumed today, Sept. 12.  SEA members are prepared to be on picket lines on Monday.

What are the sticking points?

Pay – SPS negotiators have proposed for classified staff 8.95% increase over three years (2%, 3.2%, 3.75%).  For certificated staff SPS proposes 2%, 3.2%, and 4%.  However, the third year for certificated staff also includes a 4.8 increase in our workday.  So, the actual pay proposal is 2%, 3.2%, and -.8%.  Keep in mind that teachers, librarians, counselors, etc. work well beyond their contracted student-contact hours.  A speed-up is a speed-up whether on the factory floor or in the classroom – more work for no extra pay.  SEA proposed a two-year contract with 5% and 5.5%, along with the establishment of a labor/management committee to investigate lengthening student-contact hours.  SPS refused.

Equity – SPS has offered to “pilot” equity programs in half-a-dozen schools.  The union wants equity issues addressed at every school in Seattle.

Evaluations – SEA wants a system of fair evaluation, and has proposed an evaluation review panel to handle cases in which a teacher/staff member believes they’ve been unfairly evaluated.Fairness in evaluations varies tremendously, not just between schools, but within schools.Another element of inequity is that student test scores on high-stakes standardized tests are used in the evaluations of teachers in tested subject areas.

Reasonable testing – In some schools the library is closed for as long as 2 months because of testing.  Too much time is spent on standardized tests.

Workload relief – Caseloads for psychologists, workloads for secretaries, classroom sizes for teachers, everybody needs a reduction in workload. School librarians too are overloaded.  For instance, at the middle school where I work we have over 1100 students.  I am the only librarian.  I run the library with student helpers, and an office worker who covers me for lunch, and who sometimes can help for 30-40 minutes in the morning. Parent volunteers also help.  During the four lunch periods each day, I am the only adult in the library and we usually have anywhere from 75-100 students in the library every lunch.  Note, however, that librarians have not made any demands regarding workload.  The union is demanding workload reductions for members whose workloads are much worse than ours.

More information can be found on SEA’s website

Written by Elaine Harger, librarian at Washington Middle School in Seattle (you can see a picture of me in SEA's website banner photo, poking above the "n" and the "A" of "...Education Association" -- I'm the one with the white hair)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

SEA Member Librarians Report on Day #1 of Strike

See below for reports from librarians with the Seattle Education Association on the first day on the picket lines (compiled by Elaine Harger)

I'm wondering what other people are experiencing on the picket line. We
had support from at least 50 parents with their kids today, as well as
thumbs up from a cop and honking in support from the garbage collectors.
Pathfinder is tucked away so the families had to come to us, but all in
all, we had nothing but support.
What are other people experiencing?

Same at thornton creek... Huge amounts of food and drink, coffee...
Parents and kids picketing with us. Wonderful support.

we had lots of support at Loyal Heights, all the staff showed, our school
secretary refused to cross the picket line and walked with us
lots of parents and kids stopped by and they brought donuts and other
goodies lots of supportive honks from cars a few people in cars gave us a
thumbs down

I picketed at Ballard HS last week and we got one thumbs down from a guy
in a Lexus.  Amazing how it can hook you! My colleague smiled in return.

At Washington Middle School we had got lots of happy honks from cars,
trucks, fire engines, motorcycles, buses.
My contribution to the line was copies of the lyrics to Solidarity Forever
and recruiting our choir teacher to lead us in song, which he happily,
joyfully, loudly, and beautifully did.  The sense of unity was powerful!
Here's a video news clip featuring Jesse Hagopian and Wayne Au that's
pretty good about the strike.
Ready for Day #2!

Alki had parents bringing coffee, donuts and water all morning. Many
stayed to
walk. Lots of honks and thumbs up.

similar at garfield. i heard one of our teachers had a quote on national
NPR. Kashama Sawant stopped by to add support and there is a rally to be
held at city hall tomorrow by her for us.  Community forum at city hall,
stand with sea educators   thurs 9/10 6-7:30   council chambers, seattle
city hall 600 fourth ave floor 2 206-684-8016
i just copied that off the flyer. there is going to be a musical
fundraiser at the neptune theatre on Sunday night
mad as hell and aint gonna take it anymore. i hope this thing ends soon!

We have one point person to talk to the media
We figure we walked 8 plus miles today.

Even small and out of the way Sanislo had families stop by, neighbors
provide coffee...and a much needed restroom throughout the day.  One
neighbor brought "only healthy snacks" to our school...along with their
stated goal of supporting every SW Seattle school!  As I'm fixing dinner
now, I am reminded that September is Food Literacy Month!  Make sure you
all are feeding yourselves well, not just often!  All that
walking...rewards feet well fed and watered!
Good to hear of NYT visits, local media. I caught Amy Goodman on Democracy
Now mentioning the strike today
Don't fight the impulse to do our job: be sure to share clips, links and
news of the coverage of our strike. Use those social media chops folks and
let's "Make a Mark and see what happens!"
In advance of National Dot Day next Tuesday, I'm making plans to share our
own Dot Day event...even if it is with staff from the sidewalk in front of
our school.  LITS make a difference.

View Ridge had wonderful staff turnout and so much community support in
the form of food, honks, & homemade signs. One crazy incident occurred -
and I didn't see it - but apparently a guy stopped his car to yell at a
groups of teachers. While he was on his traffic blocking tirade another
drive exited her car & proceeded to yell at him. Our teachers slowly left
the area! Great support, but a long day. We want a good contract & to be
back with the students!

Sand Point was well supported by families with food, coffee, and families
waking with us. Over all great but one guy flipped us off and yelled at us
to "Do your job". Low moment, but the vast majority was supportive.
Many thanks to Anne and the bargaining team!!

Overwhelming number of families to show up at Leschi Elementary; provide
lunch, snacks, walk with us and offer strong endorsements of their

At Broadview we had 100% participation from the staff. It was great. Lots
of honks from passing cars (a few thumbs down and one "GO BACK TO WORK".
Families brought food. Kids joined up periodically through the day.
Positive experience. I heard a great KPLU explanation of the strike that
did a pretty good job of explaining the issues and the complicated issue
of more contact time/pay. It was also on NPR>

Similar scenario at John Rogers.  100% turnout from staff.  PTA officers,
their kids, many other families walked with us.  Beautiful lunch provided
(soup, quiche, veggies), along with cold drinks and snacks throughout the
day.  Nothing but support from neighbors and passers-by.  Our school
families (across the district) really understand the work we do, and know
the depth of our dedication and commitment.  This is why it's so powerful
to picket at our schools (even when they're completely hidden away, as
Rogers is), rather than at district HQ.

Same response at North Beach - nothing but positive.  Parents opening up
their homes for bathroom breaks. Food delivered all day long.  Kids and
parents walking with us. People with no connection to the school stopping
and talking and giving support.  The best part of the day was when our UPS
driver stopped and refused to cross the picket line to deliver our
packages.  He put everything on the curb and our custodian came out to
collect them.  Apparently district mail delivery guys and other workers
are Teamsters and refusing to cross picket lines as well.

Not too much I can tell you at this point. My understanding is that the
mediator has requested to meet with SEA and SPS tomorrow AM. It's possible
the bargaining team will then be called back.
If you have specific questions, at this point, I think the best thing to
do is write them down and hand them off to your strike captains. I'm
currently not in a position where I can get information as easily.
Will keep you all posted when I know something to report.
Thanks and good luck tomorrow.
Anne [librarian on SEA’s negotiating team]

Anyone that is interested can join STEM and Arbor Heights at the Boren
Building at 4:45 am!!!! We would welcome your support! SEA wants to make
it on the 5am news cycle! Address is 5950 Delridge Way SW, Seattle WA 98106