Librarians rally for fair contract

Librarians rally for fair contract

December 7, 2018

Brandeis librarians called for a fair contract in a rally in front of the administrative building, Bernstein-Marcus, on Tuesday. The librarians were joined by members of Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) and representatives from the Service Employees International Union Local 888 (SEIU 888).

Surella Seelig, M.A. ’05, the Outreach and Special Projects Archivist in University Archives and Special Collections, started the rally saying, “We are here from the Brandeis library union, and we are here because we believe in what we do, and we believe that it is only right for the university to live up to their social justice ideals and to honor what we do as we do everyday.”

The librarians have been in negotiations with the university for over eight months, a process that BLC member Phoebe Dolan ’20 said should only have taken one month.

“If Brandeis is going to say that it is a social justice institution and it is part of making the world a better place, it needs to be supporting all members of its community, and it’s not,” Dolan told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. She said she joined and participated in the rally because she realized the power that the student body has.

“The only reason the university is here is because of the students,” explained Dolan. “We are the customers, we collectively have the most power.”

While at the rally, interspersed between speeches, the crowd chanted different phrases at Bernstein-Marcus. The chants included, “A fair contract is a right, that is why we have to fight.”

The next speaker, Aimee Slater, a research librarian and the stewardess to SEIU 888, spoke to the importance of giving all members of the community a voice. “There are people in the library you will never see who are doing amazing work,” said Slater during her speech.

“Their work is largely unsung and they are not being paid what they should be, they are not valued in the way that they should be and it is important that we as a group lift each other up and say that this work is valuable,” she continued. “That it is valuable to our communities, ourselves, the university.”

She also went on to state that the librarians have been a union at the university for over 40 years, but this is the first time in a long time that the university had not met the demands of the librarians in their contract.

Joanna Fuchs ’11, another librarian, spoke about being a member of the university and the power of the people. “Today is about positivity and promoting a positive change. This can only be accomplished in numbers, together we are much stronger than standing alone,” explained Fuchs. “This university was founded on the principles of social justice, diversity and inclusion and equity. They’re not practicing what they preach.”

Fuchs also said she had the opportunity to met with Jules Bernstein, one of Brandeis’ proudest alumni, a respected lawyer and a donor to the university, who gave her some great advice. “Don’t be scared,” he said. “Do not be intimidated. Fight for what you deserve in this life,” said Fuchs, quoting Bernstein.

Drew Flanagan, an adjunct professor in the University Writing Program and History, recalled his experiences as a library user, both as a student and faculty member. He was also present as a representative from the part-time faculty union and sits on the board of the higher education chapter of SEIU 509. He explained how SEIU 509 delivers letters of support from various stewards to both President Ron Liebowitz and Provost Lisa Lynch.

The final speaker was Alina Sipp-Alpers ’21, one of the main organizers of the rally. Sipp-Alpers spoke about the support to the librarians’ cause, listing 70 testimonials from students, four different union letters of support and 20 different librarian testimonials as evidence for broad support of the librarians’ call for a fair contract.

Sipp-Alpers went on to explain how having a union contract is a basic right because it helps the librarians support not only themselves but their families. “To President Liebowitz and Provost Lynch, I want to say that this rally, these testimonials, none of this should be the reason that they give the librarians a fair union contract because the librarians should have a fair union contract because that is their basic human right.”

Following the completion of the rally, a delegation went into the office of Provost Lynch to deliver all the letters and testimonials. The next negotiation session with the university and the union took place on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Menu Title