AFSCME librarians vow to shelve budget cuts, SEIU janitors fight to clean up poverty wages

Demanding the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Board recognize its workers’ collective bargaining rights, 60 American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 62 members and supporters carried signs and chanted outside the board’s monthly meeting at the Fountain Square library branch. The demonstrators expressed their unity by wearing bright green AFSCME shirts both inside and outside the meeting.

Organizer Michelle Martin told the World that 65 percent of the 300 library workers have signed cards petitioning the board for recognition. Workers here are facing budget cuts of $537,000, including reducing the usual 2 percent raises by half. The libraries’ budget for books and materials will be cut by 6 percent and plans to build two more branches are being shelved.

AFSCME members proposed their own budget cuts including $1.2 million by trimming the costs of hiring temporary workers and consulting and legal services.

Library employee Pam Wright, a member of the organizing committee, said that the board has outsourced some of the departments such as printing services and cleaning staff. In addition, Wright added, employees at the Irvington Branch will lose their jobs through a plan to make that branch completely automated with self-checkout machines.

Crammed inside the small meeting room, the chairman of the library board, Louis Mahern, threatened to cite fire code violations and evict the standing attendees if things got too rowdy. But when board member Jesse B. Lynch stated that he was in favor of union recognition and evoked the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., supporters responded with roaring applause. Organizers vowed an even stronger presence at the next library board meeting in August.

Just one day earlier, SEIU workers and their supporters braved 100-degree weather to demonstrate to Commercial Cleaning Services that they’re done with poverty wages and on-the-job intimidation. They demanded union representation.

Jobs with Justice, Unite Here and other union and community supporters, including members of the Indiana district of the Communist Party, joined the line to show solidarity with the embattled janitors. CCS employs predominantly Latino workers to clean corporate offices in the exclusive office parks of north Indianapolis and Carmel, but workers at CCS are paid poverty wages and face arbitrary firings and intimidation.