To the Editor:
I read with more than a little interest the article, "Library board fends angry staff, patrons," printed in the Sept. 2 issue of the Grosse Pointe News.
As the Grosse Pointe News correctly reported, the present labor dispute between the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board and its employees has persisted since the previous contracts expired on July 1, 2002.
As the Grosse Pointe News also reported, the employees' efforts to resolve the dispute, based upon objective facts, included seeking and completing a lengthy fact-finding process that ended in May of this year with the issuance of a report by a fact-finder appointed by the Michigan Employee Relations Commission. The library employees accepted the report as the basis for settlements with both groups. But the library has refused to do so.
The library employees, and some of the residents who supported their efforts to get fair contracts, have engaged in informational picketing and leafletting, as well as appearing at the previously lightly attended meetings of the library board, including the Aug. 23 meeting referenced in the Sept. 2 Grosse Pointe News article.
Since it is not mentioned in the Sept. 2 article, I assume that the Grosse Pointe News has not been advised that when the library employees sought to exercise their statutory and constitutional right of free speech by wearing buttons that said "3rd year no contract," the library board promulgated a new "rule" forbidding the wearing of the buttons by library employees anywhere the buttons could be seen by library patrons.
When the employees went to state court and filed unfair labor charges with the Michigan Employee Relations Commission contesting the board action as both unlawful and unconstitutional, the board literally made a "federal case" of the legal dispute by removing the legal action to the United States District Court a few days before the Aug. 23 board meeting, and then scheduled a hearing date in Wayne County Circuit Court.
A hearing in the federal case is now set for Monday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. before the Honorable Anna Diggs Taylor on the employees' motion for preliminary injunctive relief. At the library board meeting of Aug. 23, Grosse Pointe Library Board President John Bruce acknowledged that the library board had more than sufficient funds in the library's various fund equities (something in excess of $8 million) to settle fair and equitable contractual agreements with both of its represented employee groups.
In fact, at that meeting, Mr. Bruce publicly declared that it was the library board's intention to come to fair and equitable agreements with both groups.
During the time that this dispute has festered, and particularly since the fact-finder's report was issued and accepted by the employees, Mr. Bruce has repeatedly asserted that the principal impediment to settlement was a lack of face-to-face negotiations.
Contrary to Mr. Bruce's repeated public posturing to date, since the release of the fact-finder's report in May 2004, there have been no face-to-face negotiations between the library board's representatives and the Support Personnel Association, and only one with the librarians' association on July 28.
Rather, the library representatives have only been willing to meet with the mediator and have not responded to the numerous suggested settlements that the support personnel have submitted through the mediator since the first of July.
At no time since the fact-finder's report was released has the library board agreed to accept the report as the basis for settlement for either group, nor has the library board claimed at any time, that the fact-finder's recommendations regarding salaries for either group were not supported by the evidence offered by both sides during the hearing that extended over many months.
To date, the board has utterly failed to make an offer that would move the support personnel, many of whom are residents of the library district, off the bottom of any comparison of total compensation with other similar employees performing similar responsibilities within the communities that make up the library district, or in comparable libraries in the metropolitan area.
As the Grosse Pointe News correctly reported on Sept. 2, the Grosse Pointe library employees are tired of being told, as they were again on Aug. 23 by Mr. Bruce, how much the library board appreciates their hard work and professionalism but; not being paid accordingly. The members of both associations want the library to "put its money where its mouth is." Both groups want and expect action not more meaningless words.
The next meeting that the library's representatives have agreed to schedule is set with the mediator for Tuesday, Sept. 14.
The library employee associations call upon library board president John Bruce to meet face-to-face with association bargaining teams on that date, and agree to fair and equitable contracts for the members of both employee associations based upon the fact-finder's report.
Daniel J. Hoekenga
Michigan Education Association
Daniel J. Hoekenga
September 08, 2004