Next Step in Ferndale Library Unionization: Third Party Ballots for Employees (video)
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 19, 2022)
Ferndale, MI – Ferndale Area District Library Board Members voted unanimously to retain an attorney to guide them as Ferndale Library Workers form a union with the Detroit Newspaper Guild. The next step is an independent third-party ballot process that will give every employee the opportunity to anonymously share whether they want, or do not want, to unionize.
About fifty people attended the Dec. 15, 2022 Board meeting to express support for the union. They asked members to voluntarily recognize the Union. Youth Librarian Mary Grahame Hunter has been among those leading the unionization efforts. She told Oakland County Times in an interview that 17 out of 22 eligible employees had signed commitment cards to join. .
However that number had not been shared in the official communication from the Guild to the Board. Library Director Jenny Marr told the board “The letter did not identify which positions would be included in the unit. It did not give a number of signature cards of interest collected, nor a process for verification.”
The letter was received Dec. 5 and a special meeting was held Dec 10 with the Board going into closed session to discuss legal options. At the Dec. 15 meeting the vote was made to retain the law firm of Foster Swift to represent them in the process. Marr explained that a third party, through the Michigan Employee Relations Commission, would conduct an anonymous vote of the employees. If a majority of employees vote for the union, the Board would recognize the union and collective bargaining could begin.
The Director also reported there had been 41 emails and two phone calls in support of unionization, plus 28 patron comments in the library expressing support. There have also been two employees who expressed discomfort over the unionization process. “They said they wanted to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation by organizers and bullying online,” she said of one of them.
Those who spoke in public comment gave reasons and examples of support for the union, including a person named Laurie who did not give a last name or city. “Nobody goes into the library to get rich,” she said. “But because I belonged to the union I had a decent life, a good compensation package, a decent retirement. And this generation deserves the same opportunity that I’ve had.”
Another speaker named Nancy said “If you have the same rules and standards, it takes the pressure off management too. If there’s trouble with a worker you also have a union rep to smooth things over, and you put in rules everyone has to follow.”
If the organizers successfully have enough votes, and a contract is negotiated, all employees would fall under the provisions of the contract whether they chose to join the union or not. In Michigan employees cannot be forced to join the union, and neither union leaders nor management can intimidate employees in the process.
Board Member Amanda Hanlin said at the meeting “We are thrilled to see the turnout and the voices in support of our library staff… We not only have a duty to uphold the will of the majority, but a duty to listen to all of the voices that exist on our staff and in our community. And the truth is that not everyone on our staff feels that they have been heard, and I think it’s important that we allow the process that allows the staff to vote in a way that is anonymous and in a process that is transparent to everyone so there can be no doubt about the outcome of this process and that we can all support it together.”
The video below includes a sampling of the speakers for public comment (based on those with the best audio in our recording), and board remarks towards the end: