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CPL Union Workers Issue 10-Day Strike Notice

Union workers at the Cleveland Public Library will go on strike on Feb. 4 if negotiators cannot agree on a new contract. The union issued a 10-day strike notice Tuesday.

Members of Service Employees International Union District 1199 (SEIU) have been without a contract since Dec. 31. Sticking points in the negotiations have centered on security concerns, wages and staffing issues.

“They want to be able to outsource the work of our library staff to subcontractors and others, and refuse to acknowledge the fact that we need more staffing in our library branches,” said SEIU spokesperson Anthony Caldwell.

Union members hope to reach an agreement with the library ahead of the strike, Caldwell said. Members voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike earlier this month.

A strike would directly impact the community, according to CPL Director of Public Services John Skrtic, including suspension of meal programs at some neighborhood branches.

“We’re putting together a plan, together as the library, to make sure that we can have services across the city in some locations,” Skrtic said. “Unfortunately, some services would have to be temporarily suspended.”

The library would communicate branch and service suspension in the event of a strike through its social media, he said.

The union doesn’t want to put a freeze on those programs, Caldwell said. The library has had time to establish a contingency plan, he said.

“Our members take great pride in the services and programs they provide to their neighbors and their friends in the community and the last thing they want to do is go on strike,” SEIU’s Caldwell said. “Unfortunately, this is where we are at this point.”

Negotiations have been ongoing since early last year. The library initially offered to renew the previous contract, but the union rejected that proposal.

But there has been progress, Skrtic said.

The library agreed to bring back an independent security firm temporarily and increase the number of full-time security staff to address concerns about safety, he said. Union members have argued the library does not have enough security personnel to staff neighborhood branches.

“We have pretty much all but five of our 27 articles completed and tentatively agreed to, so we’ve been hoping to keep getting back to the table,” Skrtic said.

Those concerns arose after a 19-year old was found with gunshot wounds in the bathroom of the South Brooklyn branch last year. The teenager died of the injuries.

One more negotiation date is set ahead of the strike: Jan. 23.

“What we’d like to see is the library executives come back to the table before the Feb. 4 deadline, if an agreement cannot be reached on [Jan.] 23,” Caldwell said.

More meetings are scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11, regardless of the decision to strike.

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