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OPINION: Whose Interests does the Woodbridge Public Library Really Serve?

Will the Woodbridge Library remain in the service of the community or is it serving a different master?

As most people are aware, the Woodbridge Public Library is governed by a board.  That board is composed of members who are appointed by the mayor. 

Based on recent events, many may feel that Board has become less concerned with the needs and wants of the community, and the welfare of the hard working, dedicated library staff, and more concerned with its own vested interests.

As I wrote several weeks ago, the Board lost a lawsuit brought against it by the members of AFSCME Local #2923. 

At January 18, 2013 board meeting, the Union present the following letter to the Board and the Library Director:

To the Board of Trustees of Woodbridge Public Library and Director Murchio:

We are here, united, in support of the Unfair Labor Practice filing sent to PERC on behalf of several members of our Union. 

This filing is, unfortunately, only the latest in a series of legal steps that this Local has been forced to take to protect our members.  For decades, our Union has worked successfully with several directors, in relationships defined by mutual respect, shared service goals, communication and cooperation.  However, during the tenure of this current Administration, we have had to file several grievances, two of which went to arbitration, go to mediation during contract negotiations and now file an ULP.  These last resorts have rarely been required over the long history of Labor/Management dealings at Woodbridge Public Library but have become necessary in the face of this Administration’s unwillingness to work with us. 

 This saddens us. The library staff cares deeply about the Woodbridge community and providing quality service to our patrons.  Yet many of this Administration’s actions, from attempting to establish a community-restricting meeting room policy, to alienating the dedicated volunteers of our Friends of Woodbridge Libraries group, to involuntarily transferring staff in what certainly appears to be retaliation for Union activities, seem to be made without keeping the best interests of the Woodbridge public in mind.

In our most recent contract negotiations, two of our three proposals were non-monetary and intended to help increase employee safety and ease tensions. We had requested an improved inclement weather procedure and we had the hope that regularly scheduled Labor/Management meetings might increase familiarity and facilitate communication.  Management’s rejection of those proposals made clear to us that they were not desirous of those same goals. 

There have been several circumstances over the past two years when we considered Unfair Labor Practice filings.  We chose, at those times, not to proceed, in hopes that relations would begin to normalize.  However, the involuntary transfers were too disruptive to ignore.  Since the savings to the library are minimal, and the negative impact on efficiency and morale is great, the only conclusion that staff, let alone the Union, can draw is that the transfers were enacted as retribution for union members’ participation in the grievance of vacation denials – a management decision that was decisively overturned in arbitration.

The members of AFSCME Local 2923, who constitute the majority of the staff of Woodbridge Public Library, are still hopeful that détente can be reached in the relationship between Administration and the Union.  We hope that by taking the substantial step of submitting an Unfair Labor Practice filing, Administration will finally understand that the contract and labor laws of the United States and the State of New Jersey must be followed and will work with us in a productive manner.  We know how to do this.  We’ve done it before.  Our sincerest hope is that Administration will recognize that it is in the best interests of the citizens of Woodbridge Township to understand that the staff is an asset, not the enemy.  And that working together, we can rise to the challenges facing our library system and community.

Sincerely,

The members of AFSCME Local #2923

Clearly, there is a high level of frustration between the workers, their union, and the Board and its Library Director. 

For those who care about the librians and other library staff,  who actually make the library work for the community, please contact the Director and the Board and demand fair treatment for all of the library staff.  Woodbridge already has enough self-serving, mayor appointed, Boards and Agencies, it doesn't need another one that has or is becoming non-responsive to the needs of the people!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Al McDorman January 21, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Once again, those who do the work in Woodbridge are pawns in the big game. The shot callers know this will not change from within, and as such they will not bend. Punishment for dissension will continue, and management's decisions will be bolstered by the powers that be. Change will require outside intervention, be it judicial or divine. Well wishes to the victims now and in the future. All one can do is stay allied and continue to seek legal recourse.
Library Lover January 22, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Our library workers deserve so much better! Whatever is going on over there, somebody should put a stop to it. Does the mayor even know about this?
Tom Maras January 23, 2013 at 01:46 PM
E-mail the mayor and his council and demand answers to your concerns. The forget who works for whom, unless you remind them, OFTEN! McCormac: wbmayor@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Charles Kenny Council President Councilman-First Ward charles.kenny@twp.woodbridge.nj.us James V. Carroll Councilman-at-Large james.carroll@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Kyle Anderson Councilman-at-Large kyle.anderson@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Brenda Yori Velasco Councilwoman-at-Large brenda.yori-velasco@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Richard A. Dalina Councilman-Second Ward richard.dalina@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Michele Charmello Councilwoman – Third Ward michele.charmello@twp.woodbridge.nj.us James Major Councilman-Fourth Ward jim.major@twp.woodbridge.nj.us Robert G. Luban Councilman-Fifth Ward robert.luban@twp.woodbridge.nj.us

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