Salt Lake City employees launch bid to create Utah’s first library union

Workers want higher pay, greater transparency and more say in decision-making.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A group gathers near the Salt Lake City Public Library on Thursday, April 14, 2022. Library workers are seeking to create Utahs first library union.

Salt Lake City Public Library employees are seeking to create the first library union in Utah, announcing Monday that they are organizing to receive better pay and tackle a list of other workplace issues.

The workers are organizing with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees under the name Salt Lake City Public Library Workers United.

In addition to seeking better pay, union organizers say they want to address a lack of transparency, expensive health insurance, and being left out of the decision-making process.

“As staff, we are paid low wages during a time of rising rent and inflation,” Jacob Rosenzweig, a librarian at the Marmalade Branch, said in a news release. “We — who serve the public, who help keep our branches clean and safe, who directly implement and feel the effects of every policy — deserve to have real input in the decision-making processes that affect us and the public, and we deserve to be compensated appropriately for it. A union can help us achieve that.”

Union organizers say they also want to address safety concerns in the library system. Last year, a cluster of threats against the libraries prompted investigations by local and federal police. None of the threats was deemed credible.

In a statement Monday, a library spokesperson Quinn McQueen said officials wanted to know more about what workers wanted from a union.

“The library is interested to learn about the details of AFSCME’s proposal and what staff are hoping to achieve in this effort,” McQueen said. “SLCPL’s top priority is to care for each other, and library leadership is looking at this as an opportunity to learn more about additional ways we can make our organization an even better place to work.”

If the workers are recognized by the city, the union would represent about 345 employees. The union needs the city’s library board to send a collective-bargaining resolution to the City Council for approval.