UPDATE: Peoria Public Library workers demand more pay for ‘slow-moving’ contract negotiations

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 3:05 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

UPDATE (as of 9:35 p.m.)

PEORIA (25News Now) - Peoria Public Library workers are demanding faster movement on their contract negotiations as they enter their third month without a new contract.

An internal survey of PPL workers from the union showed nearly half were on some form of government assistance. A new hire at the library makes minimum wage, which is the same pay for high school students who shelve books at the same facility.

“Both sides have compelling arguments but at the end of the day we can’t keep our people in poverty,” Union steward Gray Baker said. “It’s kind of unacceptable and we want just to get a level of pay that gets our employees to not have to face that.”

Increased pay is the prime focus while negotiating the new contract, but ASFCME Local 3464 said progress has been slow. The previous agreement expired when 2023 started, and the protestors said they can’t go on much longer without a raise.

While the details of negotiations are being kept out of media and public view, it sounds like from union members that the city said it doesn’t have the funds.

“We’ve been told this is simply the way the funding structure of this library works, and we can’t do much and their hands are tied,” AFSCME Local 3464 Vice President Anthony Walraven said.

Dozens of union members and residents came in support of the library staff. The Board of Trustees did not talk about negotiation progress during the open meeting. They did discuss it in their executive session.

“I met this month with Patrick Ulrich our city manager and Kyle Cratty our finance manager to discuss a little more about library finance, we had some good meetings,” Executive Director Randall Yelverton said.

Prior to tonight’s meeting, Yelverton said the city had a “long history of respectful and productive negotiations,” and hopes to find a mutually beneficial agreement.

The contract could last from two to three years. An increase in funding would have to come from the city and may require a tax levy.

PEORIA (25News Now) - Peoria Public Library workers plan to gather outside the monthly board of trustees meeting to demand negotiations move faster.

AFSCME Local 3464 has worked under an expired contract since the start of 2023. The decision to picket came after the city approved a $20 million dollar spending plan for the Civic Center, according to the union.

“Like so many other public employees in this city, we were lauded as ‘heroes’ for working during the pandemic,” AFSCME’s press release reads. “Now when the time comes to reward that work with something more than empty platitudes, we are told we have to live in poverty in order for the library system to work.”

The Board’s agenda for Tuesday night said Executive Director Randall Yelverton will provide an update on the “labor management committee,” and contract negotiations.

Yelverton provided the following statement ahead of the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

“The Library and AFSCME have enjoyed a long history of respectful and productive negotiations and will continue to do so as the parties bargain this contract. The Library and its employees, like many businesses, entities, and individuals, have felt the strain of inflation and the rising cost of living in a post-pandemic world. While the Library cannot comment on the status of ongoing negotiations, it looks forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement that will allow the Library to continue to offer all the same excellent services and programming that our community has come to expect and enjoy.”

This story will be updated.