After rally, University offers new Librarians’ Union contract
After eight months of negotiations, the Brandeis Librarians’ Union voted to ratify their contract with the University on Monday, according to Brandeis Labor Coalition coordinator Alina Sipp-Alpers ’21 in a Monday email to the Justice. The vote came just days after the BLU and BLC held a rally outside of the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Building last Tuesday to advocate for a fair contract. The BLU is represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 888 and has been negotiating with the University since June 2018.
According to Sipp-Alpers, “the only step left is for both sides to officially sign the contract.” In the contract, “the staff got the raises they demanded, and the university agreed to use gender neutral language in the contract for the first time,” she said in the same email. The librarians’ previous contract was originally set to expire on June 30, but had been repeatedly extended by the University, according to Sipp-Alpers.
Sipp-Alpers said the BLC and the BLU attribute their victory to Tuesday’s rally. “We believe that the university finally understood that the librarians had the students’ support and that they would not back down until they were given a contract,” she wrote. In the same email, Sipp-Alpers described the rally as “a clear example of the people exerting their power, and how much of a difference it makes.”
Sipp-Alpers, who spoke at the rally, told the Justice in an interview on Tuesday that the librarians’ union representative reached out to her for helping to organize the rally with the student group. Sipp-Alpers said she thought the rally would make a difference in the negotiations because “the administration hates to see that students care about this kind of stuff,” she said. “They want students to say that they love social justice, but they don’t want them to say, ‘Okay, but when you do something bad, we’re going to call you out on it.’”
The BLC has worked to support the union in other ways than just helping with the rally, Sipp-Alpers said. She said that they collected over 70 student testimonials discussing how much they appreciate the librarians, as well as letters of support signed by the Brandeis Union of Graduate Student Workers and the Part-Time Faculty Union. “Brandeis Labor Coalition seeks to just support the unions and the workers on campus in any way that we can,” Sipp-Alpers said in the same interview.
Students not affiliated with the BLC also showed up for the rally, Sipp-Alpers said. “It’s always great to see that it's not just our members who care about this,” she added.
Librarian, union steward and member of the negotiating team Aimee Slater said in an interview with the Justice before Monday’s vote that there were only a few remaining points of contention in the negotiation process that they were waiting for before signing the contract. “We have just a few things left that we seem to not be able to come to agreement on,” she said. “I think that to a certain extent the University is sort of hoping to wait us out, but we’re librarians, so patience is our jam.”
Digital Literacy Specialist and BLU Action Team Member Esther Brandon also helped organize Tuesday’s rally. In an interview with the Justice before Monday’s vote, she emphasized that she thought it was important for the University to treat its librarians fairly in the negotiation. “Being in this union and being part of Brandeis is a huge part of my identity, and I love it here … but I want to be treated with dignity and respect when negotiating a contract,” Brandon said.
Slater explained how the University’s emphasis on a campus culture of social justice did not align with the University’s actions before the vote. “We love our students, we love our job, we love Brandeis,” she said, adding, “We just want [the administrators] to practice what they preach.”
Brandeis Director of Media Relations Julie Jette did not reply to a request for comment in time for publication.