Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Climate of Fear at Berkeley Public Library," says SEIU

Berkeley Daily Planet reports:
After two years of labor strife between employees and Library Director Jackie Griffin—and growing discontent with the director from a citizen’s group [superBOLD]—Berkeley’s Board of Library Trustees met Saturday behind closed doors to discuss possible litigation threatened by the library director’s attorney, were she to be terminated.
Union shop steward Andrea Segall wasn’t thinking about whether the director would be fired or get a negotiated settlement. She said she was simply glad that signs seemed to point to the director’s exit and the end to antagonistic relations with employees, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 535.

The conflicts began when the director carried through with her proposal for the more-than-$650,000 Radio Frequency Identification program, an expense that resulted in staff layoffs.

The union has alleged that there was administrative retaliation against employees who have engaged in union activities and spoken out against library policies, exacerbating the conflict.

“There’s been a climate of incredible fear in the library—now people are afraid to challenge (the director),” Segall said.

“Our perspective is that we have tried over almost two years in five different venues to affect change,” Segall said. “That cost the city quite a bit of money in staff and consultant time.”

Anes Partridge, senior field representative with SEIU 535, underscored that the union will keep the pressure on at the library until the personnel files of people disciplined unfairly have been cleared.

A call to Griffin was returned by Community Relations Librarian Alan Bern, who said the director “can’t comment at this time on internal issues.” A message on the answering machine of her attorney, Jonathan Siegel, said he was away from the office until April 14..

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