It has now been a day more than seven weeks since voters in the Ithaca City School District turned out in stunning numbers on Feb. 7 to turn down the Tompkins County Library's request for a new tax.
...adding freshman Legislator Mike Sigler to the library's collective bargaining team...adding Sigler as the county legislator's representative on the collective bargaining team — may be obvious as well, but is worth underscoring. Contract negotiations are ongoing between the library and the United Auto Workers Local 2300 over renewing two deals, one for support staff and the other covering professional employees, that expired at the end of 2005. Those deals have been criticized for having wage, vacation and compensation components far better than most taxpayers enjoy. The contracts also codified an older arbitrator's ruling requiring union employees to be paid time-and-a-half for summer Saturdays as well as all Sundays. With personnel and related costs consuming more than 75 percent of the library's operating budget, and library users calling for more weekend hours, the chance to make great gains here should not be ignored. Sigler, a Republican and former state Assembly candidate elected to the Legislature last fall, has been an outspoken fiscal conservative and critic of excessive spending throughout his political career. Adding Sigler's voice to a negotiating panel that also includes recently appointed library trustee and veteran negotiator Hank Dullea should help the library get the best deal possible.
Library tax: Voters should reject new levy
Originally published February 4, 2006
Ithaca Journal states:
Contract negotiations are now under way between the library and the United Auto Workers Local 2300. Two contracts, one for support staff and the other covering professional employees, expired at the end of 2005. With personnel and related costs consuming more than 75 percent of the library's operating budget, the potential impact of these negotiations is hard to underplay.
Critics have noted that some terms built into the existing contracts seem out of place in an institution that must carefully steward the public's money. Union employees at the library work 35-hour weeks, with time between 35 and 40 hours triggering “compensatory time” or paid time off. The contracts contain seven paid holidays, five “floating holidays,” 12 personal/sick days and two weeks vacation as a starting point; meaning even without comp time, after the first year a new employee can have as many as 34 paid days off. The deals also carry over a previous arbitrator's ruling making summer Saturdays join all Sundays as workdays at time-and-a-half pay. That means, putting aside comp time again, for every weekend the library is open in the summer wages equal to the cost of another Sunday are burned in overtime.
Library Director Janet Steiner, who has taken fair public criticism from the union for accepting thousands of dollars in bonuses and an $80,000-plus salary, has steadfastly refused to link union contracts to library budget problems. She even called it a “red herring” in a recent interview. That's a commendable defense of her staff, but an alarming denial of an issue that clearly needs to be addressed. Whatever the genesis of these labor terms, they are far more generous than those under which most taxpayers toil. Before the library can turn to those taxpayers and ask for more of their money, both sides - labor and management - need to prove they understand the responsibility they have to be jealous guardians of every public dollar.