As in a lot of places, libraries in Chicago have faced budget problems as the cities have faced budget problems, and based on this article it seems the mayor and the local union have been having difficulty finding any agreement.
After all the recent closures and firings, the mayor now has a plan that will reopen Chicago public libraries on Mondays, reinstate some laid off employees, and return some others to full time from part time. Sounds good, right?
According to the head of the union, that’s not good enough “for the people of Chicago.” It’s nice that someone is sticking up “for the people of Chicago”!
Based on comments from the head of the union, I think it would be hard for anyone who wasn’t a librarian wanting a job to sympathize with them.
On a minor note, I wonder if the head of the union had been a woman instead of a man, would she have called some Chicago aldermen “handmaidens of the mayor”? Seems like one angry man trying to emasculate some other men. Maybe he could just tell everyone they have tiny penises and be done with it.
The mayor said, “I expect labor to be a partner in better managing the time because it’s about the people we serve in communities — not about them.” The mayor is a pretty smart guy, so something tells me he didn’t really expect that. That’s just political spin to make the labor union seem selfish and centered only on the concerns of its members rather than the good of the “people of Chicago.”
Naturally, the union is concerned with the well being of its members rather than the people of Chicago. That’s what unions are for, to get the best possible deal for their members.
Supposedly, teacher union leader Albert Shanker once said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” Even if he didn’t say it, it perfectly sums up the goal of unions to protect their members above all else. Why else have a union?
So it’s naïve to believe that the unions wouldn’t be fighting for their interests, even when the claim is coming from the head of the union himself, who was quoted in the article as saying,
“Today’s plan seems to leave branch libraries closed most Monday mornings and more than 100 library employees still out of work. We urge the mayor to work with the union to finish the job for the people of Chicago, a world-class city that deserves libraries fully open and fully staffed.”
What would it mean to really have a library “fully open”? Was the library “fully open” when it was open on Monday mornings as well? Wouldn’t “fully open” mean 24/7 access? Otherwise, the phrase is arbitrary and meaningless.
What’s not arbitrary is the “100 library employees still out of work.” From the standpoint of anyone not a librarian or being supported by one, the important thing is keeping the libraries open, not keeping librarians employed.
That’s even the implied stance of the American Librarian Library Association. The goals of the ALA are about promoting libraries, not necessarily librarians.
We have to ask the question, what’s more important, the libraries or the librarians? Most people would say the libraries, but at least one could argue that it takes “fully staffed” libraries to be effective. It may or may not be true, but it’s the best argument in the union arsenal. If the well being of the people of Chicago requires lots of librarians, then darn it the city needs to hire lots of librarians!
After that, the argument devolves. The final quote from the union head is baffling.
“If Emanuel can ask corporate donors to help bankroll the $60 million NATO and G-8 Summits, Bayer said, he can ask those same businesses to cough up $3 million to keep Chicago public libraries open on Mondays.”
If this is an example of the sort of case being made for keeping librarians employed, then they should probably start looking for jobs elsewhere.
I’m sure plenty of businesses in Chicago have been asked to “cough up” money from mayors over the years, but that’s sort of beside the point. Everyone in Chicago has already coughed up plenty of money in the form of taxes.
But how are NATO and G-8 summits analogous to libraries? The former are roving, temporary events and the latter are permanent institutions and structures. What happens next year? More coughing up of money to keep librarians employed?
Besides, “corporate donors” might have an interest in having a G-8 summit in Chicago, but those “corporate” donors probably don’t care if the Chicago public libraries remain open on Monday mornings. Come to think of it, who really does except the librarians?
Is not being able to visit a library on a Monday morning really such a tragedy? It might be for the librarians who don’t get to work on that Monday morning, but for everyone else it’s still a better deal than not having libraries open on Monday at all.