Great letter by library workers in the BDH today

Letter: Workers question U. math

In last Thursday’s article concerning negotiations between Brown’s library workers and administration (“University speaks on library contract negotiations,” Oct. 28), Beppie Huidekoper is quoted comparing average raises for our unionized staff with raises for non-union staff at Brown. She is “trying to set the context” and cites “fairness” to justify Administration’s positions.

By Huidekoper’s calculations, over the last three years, union staff received an increase of around 14 percent compared to seven percent for non-union staff. She wants to provide context, but fails to provide specifics about these figures. Does she count upgrades as well as annual raises in her assessment of non-union increases? During these three years, non-union staff received raises due to changed responsibilities — even during the 2009 wage freeze for which Huidekoper claims a zero percent increase. We aren’t convinced that seven percent tells the whole story.

In 2007, we negotiated 3.5 percent increases for the next three years, totaling 10.5 percent. During that period and before, the library’s unionized staff dwindled from over 90 to 65. The consequence of this downsizing and the accompanying reduction in professional librarians is that unionized workers are now responsible for work that was once shared by two or three people and/or done solely by professionals. To make this reorganization possible, Library Administration reclassified several positions. We suspect Huidekoper folds these upgrades into the extra three percent she calculates into our increase.

We address these seemingly minor calculations because Huidekoper insists her definition of fairness, in the context she provides, must be served. Unions are the backbone of workplace fairness — we would love to see non-unionized workers at Brown organize and negotiate for what is fair. In 2007, we bargained fairly for annual raises. Subsequently, during the economic downturn, the University decided — despite its shaken but still enormous endowment — to freeze non-union salaries and cut positions.

Here is the context: Brown made business decisions — not because it was broke like many businesses, but because it was less wealthy — that have negatively affected its non-unionized workers’ livelihoods. Now it turns to our union as we try to negotiate a reasonable balance between job responsibilities, wages and premium co-pays, and asks us to be fair.

Support a REAL fair contract by coming to the RALLY outside of University Hall today (Friday) at 2pm.

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