As contract negotiations for the Yonkers Public Library and its labor union go into arbitration, all branches closed on Sunday in protest.
The Yonkers Public Library is over a 100-years-old institution spanning three branches across the city. The Riverfront, Grinton I. Will, and Crestwood branches all serve critical services to New York state’s third largest city. These services extend far beyond the customary book check-outs. Community meetings, an art gallery, and even a full-service tech suite all provide ways for Yonkersites to learn and grow. But, on Sunday September 10th, the doors to all three branches were shut to the public.
In August, the contract negotiations broke down between the union and the the board of trustees supported by Library Director, Jesse Montero.
The workers of the YPL are represented by SEIU 704b. 704b is specifically the library employees while the larger 704 represents other departments across the City of Yonkers. These library workers are also reportedly the lowest paid on the City payroll.
Contract negotiations are few and far between for the YPL with the last contract expiring in 2019. Typically, the union and the library’s Board of Trustees handle this process internally-essentially just as a formality. But, this year saw a first in these negotiations. Not only was the City government also involved from the start, but a professional negotiator was included as well. However, after numerous long and drawn-out meetings, the membership of 704b took a dramatic stand last week.
The union-member staff of the Yonkers Public Library informed the administration that they would no longer work Sundays until a new contract is signed. Residents that had meetings and classes scheduled were informed of the cancellations. And while the website for the YPL did alert visitors that all of the library’s branches would be closed, it stopped short of an explanation.
We reached out to Director Montero and received a response from the YPL’s marketing manager that no comment could be made as the negotiations were on-going.
It is unclear for how long the contract negotiations will persist. And if these persisting negotiations will therefore continue the Sunday closures. We await a statement from the SEIU 704b leadership which may come as soon as Monday.