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Librarians disappointed by SERB decision for unionization

On Dec. 12 and 13, 2022, Ginny Boehme, along with some of her Miami University colleagues, traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to testify before the State Employment Relations Board (SERB).

Boehme and her colleagues were there with the Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM) advocating for teaching clinical professors and lecturers (TCPLs), instructors, visiting assistant professors (VAPs) and librarians to be included in FAM’s proposed collective bargaining unit.

Boehme, a science librarian at Miami, testified to SERB about responsibilities, promotion and continuing contracts system within Miami’s libraries, arguing that these shared similarities with full-time faculty.

So when SERB announced on March 9 that librarians, along with VAPs, would not be allowed to participate in the proposed union, Boehme was disappointed.

“It just felt like all of the work that we had done to get to this point was basically all for nothing,” Boehme said. “It was really, really disappointing and then to actually read through the decision and the reasoning behind it was just another slap in the face.”

SERB’s decision included points such as librarians’ 12-month contracts as opposed to faculty members’ nine-month contracts and librarians’ similarities to unclassified administrative staff.

However, Boehme said the judge for the decision included some inaccurate points, such as librarians being paid hourly — Boehme said librarians are salaried employees — and others that demonstrated a lack of knowledge for what librarians do.

“There seemed to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what we do and how our teaching is compared to the faculty teaching. I mean, it is different, but it is still teaching,” Boehme said. “It really seemed like he didn't understand most of the similarities that we share with the faculty.”

In an email to The Miami Student, Jessica Rivinius, vice president and chief marketing communications officer, wrote that Miami agreed with SERB’s decision, saying the university doesn’t believe faculty, librarians and VAPs share enough similarities to make up a single collective bargaining unit.

“While each of these positions plays a critical part in furthering our University mission and delivering academic excellence to our students,” Rivinius wrote, “Miami believes the experiences across these various groups vary drastically and would not allow for an effective collective bargaining agreement to be reached if a faculty union was established.”

SERB’s decision excludes around 30 university librarians from being part of FAM’s proposed union. Boehme was not the only librarian disappointed with SERB’s ruling.

Rachel Makarowski, a special collections librarian, although sad about the decision, didn’t let it keep her down.

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“At first I was a little disappointed,” Makarowski said. “After that feeling of disappointment, when that passed, I was like, ‘Okay, I guess we're organizing the librarians under our own contract with FAM.’”

Makarowski has been helping FAM for more than a year. Although she can no longer be included in the proposed union, she still continues volunteering.

“Even though the TCPL and tenure-track folks are the only people who are in the determined unit, that still doesn't detract from the fact we’re still one union,” Makarowski said. “So to me, continuing with volunteering just really helps to cement that the fight isn't over.”

Rivinius wrote in the same email that the university will still work with those not recognized in the collective bargaining unit.

“While the election moves forward with tenured and tenure-track and TCPL faculty only, we will continue to support and work openly with all faculty, Librarians, and those in Multiple Appointments through our model of shared governance,” Rivinius wrote.

For librarians like Boehme, though, the SERB hearing made some at the university feel as if they do not have the same recognition from the university as others.

“It's always been described in a really, really horrible tongue-in-cheek sort of way as separate but equal and that's what it feels like,” Boehme said. “We are second class citizens to the university when we still have all the same responsibilities and processes as true faculty.”