Honnold Mudd Library staff voting on unionization

A person stands at the end of a row of books in a library.
Ballots were mailed to Honnold Mudd Library employees on Monday to vote on unionization. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Updated March 11 at 12:14 p.m.

Staff at the 7Cs’ Honnold Mudd Library are deciding by secret ballot whether to form a union after 70 percent of approximately 39 eligible employees expressed interest. The California Federation of Teachers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board filed a petition to represent the staff, according to a Feb. 9 statement from The Claremont Colleges Services (TCCS). 

Ballots were mailed to employees in the collective-bargaining unit on Monday and must be returned by March 21.

TCCS Library Staff Federation said its reasons for seeking a union are common to other employers: fair pay, transparent human resources practices and the ability to influence workplace conditions.

“Our key concerns center on our rights in an educational environment where issues of academic freedom and equitable employment can typically be complex — even more complex in an arrangement such as the Claremont consortium of colleges,” the union said on its website.

TCCS said it will support staff members’ decision either way and will not discriminate against employees based on whether they support or oppose a union, either before or after the vote. 

“You are part of a well-educated, highly skilled, engaged library staff that is deeply proud of its affiliation with TCCS,” an FAQ for library staff said. “We know you will think carefully about the decision to unionize … It is [the staff’s] decision — not TCCS’ and not a union’s — and we will respect their decision,”

Two different ballots were sent — one for professional staff and one for nonprofessional staff. The difference between professional and nonprofessional jobs is decided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with the key difference being that professional jobs require a degree while nonprofessional positions do not, according to Indeed. This classification is important to determine taxes and salaries. 

The professional staff will have two questions on their ballot, one of which will determine if they are included with nonprofessional staff in collective bargaining. There is a possibility both groups will vote in favor of unionization but may end up with separate representation if the professional staff vote against inclusion with nonprofessional staff.

The union said in an FAQ that while many institutions organize librarians, who often have advanced degrees, and library staff separately, “we realized at the beginning of this process that our strength was in our unity and our concerns related to the workplace we widely shared.”

“We decided that we would do this together, or not at all,” the union added.

Some employees of the library are not eligible for being in the bargaining unit, including supervisors with the authority to hire or fire employees, managers and confidential employees who set labor policy for TCCS.

“If the union is established, it will be your exclusive representative, even if you voted against the union or simply decided not to vote in the election,” the FAQ said.

Employers may voluntarily recognize unions who have signed authorization cards from a majority of employees, but they are not required to. TCCS said it believes unionization should be decided through an election. 

“The union is your agent for better or worse and is beholden to the unit as a whole, not to any individual employee,” TCCS told employees in the FAQ, emphasizing that direct exchanges between employees and supervisors may be limited due to unionization. 

If the union is approved, “new labor contracts often take months, and sometimes years, to negotiate,” TCCS said in the updated FAQ. 

The Claremont chapter of the American Association of University Professors, an organization that advocates for faculty interests, expressed support for the librarians’ proposed union, saying in a Monday statement that the consortium’s teaching and learning environment would be best served by “a work context that recognizes the rights of all employees and ensures they are treated fairly and with dignity.”

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