Librarians call for ‘fair contract’
The Brandeis Librarians’ Union expressed frustration over their contract negotiations with the University in a campaign during Family Weekend. The BLU, which is connected to the Service Employees International Union Local 888, have been negotiating with the University administration since June 2018 to collectively bargain for fair contracts for Brandeis librarians, according to a flyer handed out by members of the Union. (University Librarian Matthew Sheehy, a representative for the University in the negotiations, clarified in an email to the Justice that Internet and Technology Services is not a part of this negotiation.)
On Oct. 12, Digital Literacy Specialist Ester Brandon ’12, MAT ’14 and Outreach & Special Projects Archivist Surella Seelig MA ’05 distributed flyers outside Gosman Sports and Convocation Center. User Experience Librarian Jen Giordano later joined Brandon and Seelig.
Currently, the librarians are working with the SEUI Local 888, according to an op-ed written by the Brandeis Labor Coalition in the Justice. They are working to get a “fair contract” with the University, according to Brandon. She also said that the “library’s union has proposed a pathway toward a fair contract, and Brandeis hasn’t met us halfway.”
Surella explained that the librarians’ contract is renewed “every several years.” She said that the last contract negotiation was supposed to come to an end in June or July, but that the librarians “extended” negotiations. To resolve the impasse, the Librarians’ Union mounted a campaign over Family Weekend to mobilize parents, students and the rest of the Brandeis community to “post pictures with themselves and to contact the Brandeis administration, just saying to please support the library,” Brandon said. They handed out flyers during the event urging the community to call and email University Provost Lisa Lynch. Representatives of the union also held a photo frame for members of the Brandeis community to put their faces through. Brandon said that they encouraged people to tweet with the hashtags, “#SupportDeisLibrary” and “#BrandeisFamilyWeekend.” Surella added, “We just want to let people know what’s going on and let them know that they can support us.” Surella said she believes the library should fulfill the needs of the University, and a fair contract would help fulfill this.
Giordano, who works primarily as a research guide, has worked at the library for nine years. She said in her time at Brandeis she has worked to make sure the library meets the needs of students in their academic endeavors. She believes that the librarians should be recognized for their contributions to students’ academic lives and future careers.
Surella told the Justice that for her, this campaign is about Brandeis honoring its values. “Brandeis is a social justice school, and we do our very best to help students to help faculty to help researchers from around the world, and we love it.” She says that the librarians find great joy in their jobs, “but that’s not enough.”
Brandon said she feels that Brandeis is a part of her identity; she received her undergraduate and master's degrees from Brandeis, and is now working toward her second master’s degree in the Rabb Graduate Professional Studies program while working for the library. She said a fair contract will ensure librarians “are treated fairly and with the same respect that we give the University.”
In an email to the Justice, Director of Media Relations Julie Jette wrote, “Brandeis is negotiating in good faith with the librarians and we hope to reach an agreement soon.”