Berkeley, California — The students, workers and landmark service cooperatives that operate at the Berkeley Public Library have won a contract that will save them millions of dollars a year, but a federal judge said the workers are still waiting for a formal offer.
“The strike has been an ongoing fight,” said Matthew McElroy, a Berkeley student cooperative’s executive director.
“We’re going to have to go to arbitration.”
The workers, who collectively represent about 25,000 people at Berkeley Public libraries, have been trying to negotiate a new four-year contract for several months, but were unsuccessful in bargaining a deal earlier this year.
The strike, which started in April, has dragged on for nearly two months, and has been largely peaceful.
“Berkeley Public Library employees have been on strike for months, working with a union to win better pay and benefits, and to fight for better working conditions and safer working conditions,” said McElray, adding that workers will need to submit more than 500,000 signatures to win their bid for a contract extension.
“That means that if we can’t reach a deal by the end of the week, we’ll go back to arbitration,” he said.
McElry said that the strike has cost the university $1.8 million, but that the university has been able to secure additional savings by eliminating over-crowding and by reducing overtime.
“With the cuts in staff, we have to be able to afford to pay people more money,” McElroys said.
He said that a large portion of the university’s budget comes from student fees.
The university and labor unions have been working to reach a new agreement for more than a year after a strike last summer forced a shutdown of campus libraries.
“This is an important win for our students and library employees,” said David Wirthlin, vice president of the National Labor Relations Board.
“At a time when public libraries are being forced to shut down, this contract will help them make ends meet and support our mission to educate the next generation.”
The strike began on April 1 after a long campaign by a coalition of about 200 Berkeley Public employees, students, library employees and other community members.
“It’s very disappointing that we can no longer get the benefits that we want,” McIlroy said.
“But we know that this is a labor dispute, not a strike.”
McElrays said that if the strike is not resolved by Monday, the library will start charging students who book books online for $1 more.
The library is also going to require students to use an online library system that has a separate system for checking their books and checking their emails.
“People are very upset that we’re having to put up with this,” McEllroy said, adding, “I know this has been a stressful time, but it’s important that we get to a fair contract.”
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