Library_Logo_colorUnion workers at the Louisville Free Public Library have filed a class action suit against Metro Government, claiming the city has violated their collective bargaining agreement by replacing full-time union positions with part-time workers and subcontractors.

AFSCME Local 3425 president Stephanie Croft — who also has been a library clerk for the past decade — filed the complaint last month as a representative of the 215 union workers at the library. They argue that Metro Government has violated Article 22 of their collective bargaining agreement, which states that they may not “employ or work seasonal, temporary, part-time or volunteer workers for the purpose of reducing or replacing” union members.

The complaint notes that the number of full-time union workers at the library has fallen 25 percent since 2006 and 7 percent since 2010, with those workers being replaced by a growing number of non-union part-timers and subcontractors. They claim that between July of 2012 and September of 2013, 16 non-union subcontractors were hired and worked a total of 7,450 hours at city libraries.

AFSCME’s complaint says these actions by the city are not only a breach of their contract, but have lowered work standards and morale at the library. They are asking the court to acknowledge the violation and order Metro Government to restore the union positions and cease the practice.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell filed a response to the complaint two weeks ago denying most of its allegations and asking that it be dismissed with prejudice.

In 2012, the AFSCME local filed a class-action grievance against Louisville Free Public Library over the same complaints. In February of this year, the executive director of the Louisville Labor-Management Committee determined the two parties were unable to resolve their differences.

In May, various labor unions representing city workers began to speak out forcefully against how they feel they are being treated by Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration, feeling betrayed by the man they helped elect in 2010.

During an interview at the time, Croft brought up these same concerns about library staffing, in addition to being denied sick time, vacation time and raises. “We haven’t hired a full-time library clerk in six years,” she told me. “But you hire a lot of part-time people and subcontract people that you shouldn’t even be using on a regular basis. Why? Because the wages are cheaper and you don’t have to pay benefits. And that goes against our agreement.”

Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter responded to criticism this spring, saying, “Mayor Fischer and his team have a good relationship with our labor unions. We work together to reach collective bargaining agreements that are fair to both labor and management.”

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]