Honnold Mudd Library staff to unionize after successful election

The entrance to a large white library building.
Of the 34 library workers eligible to vote on unionization, 17 voted yes, 4 voted no and 13 did not vote. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

A majority of Honnold Mudd Library staff have voted in favor of unionization, according to a March 23 statement from the California Federation of Teachers, which is representing the 7C library workers.

The Claremont Colleges Services said in a March 24 FAQ that of 34 workers eligible to vote, 17 voted yes, 4 voted no and 13 did not vote.

The ballots were distributed March 7 and due March 21, after 70 percent of eligible employees expressed interest in forming a union, according to the union’s website.

“TCCS responded as most institutions do when their staff decide to unionize: they chose not to voluntarily recognize the union when we submitted authorization cards to the National Labor Relation Board and had us vote for unionization, also run by the National Labor Relation Board,” librarian Kirsten Hansen told TSL via email. 

Hansen said 30 workers told organizers they submitted their ballots during the get out the vote campaign.

“Given the current state of the United States Postal System, we assume that some ballots arrived too late to be counted,” she said.

Within the next few weeks, the union and TCCS staff will begin negotiations regarding wages, benefits, working conditions and other policies. Until the contract is ratified, 7C library staff will continue to operate under current arrangements, the TCCS FAQ said.

Hansen said that the organizers did not choose to unionize in opposition to any specific people in management.

“The reason we chose to unionize is because we value working at TCCS and want to make it an even better place to be,” she said. “Many of the changes that we want to see are institutional changes that can’t easily be made by any one person, but can be made by groups of people working together to change the institution.”

Organizers will begin surveying staff to make sure that all 34 workers represented by the union have a voice in identifying major goals for the negotiations, Hansen said. 

“We expect that our staff survey and contract negotiations will include arguments for fair pay, transparent hiring/firing/promotion practices and a greater voice in the conditions of our workplace,” she said.

Hansen added that TCCS is “very generous” in their retirement contributions, tuition contributions and health insurance, and “it would be great to see those benefits continue” in the contract. 

The Claremont chapter of the American Association of University Professors, an organization that advocates for faculty interests in academic freedom and shared governance, shared its support of the results. 

“A huge win for labor justice & academic excellence here at the Claremont Colleges. Unionized libraries are the best libraries!” the group said in a March 23 tweet

“I regard the unionization of library workers to be one of the most positive changes for the Colleges during [my] entire time [at the 5Cs],” Daniel Segal, a professor of history and anthropology at Pitzer College and member of the Claremont AAUP executive committee, said in an email.

Segal said librarians have had to face stagnant wages and other challenges from management.

“This makes their unionization especially urgent,” he said. “I urge management to accept a contract that provides them just salaries and compensation, as well as improved working conditions. Management has no trouble finding the financial resources for their high salaries and compensation, which loom over all other workers in the consortium, including faculty.”

Segal added that librarians must sometimes make controversial decisions and deserve protection to do so without fear of reprisal.

“Unionization is an important means to that end, which is crucial for educational excellence in the consortium,” he said. “This is an inspiring moment, a time to celebrate, as a foundation for moving forward to a better library and consortium for us all.”

Hansen said the push to unionize began in late 2021 in response to a “desire for greater transparency in library governance on the part of some library staff.”

“We — the library staff who did union organizing — enjoy working at The Claremont Colleges Library and want our careers here to be feasible in the future,” she said.

Hansen said most staff had not been represented by a union before and asked the organizers questions about the process. Other staff members had questions and concerns about possible retaliation for participating in unionization. 

“Retaliation against employees for organizing a union is illegal but it does happen and we were honest about that,” Hansen said. “Luckily, we had the support of union organizers from the California Federation of Teachers and TCCS recognized our right to unionize without undue interference.”

Hansen said that while none of the library workers pushing for a union had prior labor organizing experience, “unsurprisingly, librarians are very organized and good at documentation, two things that turned out to be very useful when unionizing.” 

“Unsurprisingly, librarians are very organized and good at documentation, two things that turned out to be very useful when unionizing.”

Kirsten Hansen

Jeff Freitas, the president of CFT, said that the federation looks forward to working with the consortium to “quickly negotiate a contract that recognizes the critical contributions these workers make every day to the students and faculty of the Claremont Colleges.”

7C librarians took to Twitter this week to celebrate their victory.

“Today my excellent colleagues at The Claremont Colleges Library @TCCSLSF voted Yes to form a union! I have the best coworkers anyone could ask for!” librarian Jennifer Beamer tweeted on March 21. 

Librarian Jeanine Finn concurred, adding on Twitter that some staff had been looking into unionization for over a year. 

“We came together collectively to have a greater voice and agency in our workplace,” Finn said in the CFT statement. “We are so excited to be launching a new chapter in which we can fully contribute to an environment for education where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

When asked whether students or faculty should expect any changes at the library due to the unionization process, TCCS spokesperson Laura Muna-Landa said via email that “in its commitment to serve the Claremont Colleges community, our Library staff will continue to adhere to its excellent standards of service.” 

TCCS’s statement to TSL directed community members to its webpage for more information and did not address specific questions regarding unionization. 

“We truly believe that having unionized staff will make the Library better for everyone: staff, management, students and faculty,” Hansen said.

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