Workers at Sno-Isle Libraries made history last week by becoming the last non-unionized public library system in Western Washington to unionize. Sno-Isle Libraries Employees United (SILEU), which organized through AFSCME Council 2, will cover 377 workers across the library system’s 23 branches, Service Center and Library on Wheels. They won union recognition after the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) verified supermajority support for the union among workers and sent a final determination of certification on July 25.
Library employees first announced they were forming a union on May 19 of this year to address issues such as fair compensation, health and safety, lack of transparency, protection against discrimination and harassment, inequitable policies and procedures that directly affect diverse staff and the inclusion of staff voices in the library system’s decision-making process. SILEU and community supporters attended the library’s board meeting on May 30 to officially notify management that they had filed for union recognition with PERC.
AFSCME Council 2 celebrated the announcement of SILEU’s recognition and welcomed the group of library workers as the newest members of the union family. “I’ve never met a group of employees that are more committed to the work that they do,” said Michael Rainey, AFSCME Council 2 President and executive director.
Workers said that SILEU’s victory represents a new beginning where staff will be able to collaborate with management to discuss the future of the library system. “For the first time in 60 years, staff will meet management on a level playing field,” said Marie Byars, who works as information assistant at the Oak Harbor branch.
“I’m blown away but not surprised that due to our hard work and the strong support of our colleagues, we unionized in less than a year since we began our organizing efforts. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this movement and listen to my coworkers’ stories,” said Kate Spencer, a page at the Mill Creek branch. “I cannot wait to see the good things that are in store for our SILEU union members!”
Now that Sno-Isle Libraries Employees United won union recognition, workers are making plans to prepare to bargain their first contract. According to SILEU, the group is working together to establish their top priorities for negotiations through a bargaining survey, and is drafting an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement, along with their constitution and bylaws.
Sno-Isle Libraries Employees United is the newest addition to AFSCME Cultural Workers United, a movement of cultural workers across the country who are unionizing for a voice on the job. They join the ranks of Seattle Public Library, King County Library System, Everett Public Library, Pierce County Library System and Tacoma Public Library, who are also represented through AFSCME Council 2, in addition to Tacoma Art Museum Workers United, who are currently organizing with AFSCME Council 28/WFSE 1212.