Homewood Public Library employees are forging a new path becoming the first library staff to unionize in the South Suburbs.
In February 2016, employees reached out to the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31. All but two of the nearly 60 non-management employees signed on to unionize.
Certified by the Illinois Labor Relations Board last August, the group then went on to form a four-person bargaining committee, choosing Lisa Stilts, paraprofessional in Library Services, as president. Other committee members include Sandra Sullivan and Caitlyn Archer-Helke, both librarians, and Sue Ryan, circulation clerk.
The first bargaining session is slated for April 28.
"The administration and trustees of the Homewood Public Library District look forward to working with the union to continue the excellent work environment that allows us to provide the highest quality of service to our patrons," said Administrative Librarian Amy Crump.
“We organized for respect, fair and consistent treatment and a voice in decisions that affect library services and our coworkers,” said Stilts, adding optimism is rising among the employees. “I am feeling hopeful that these bargaining sessions will allow us to improve patron services."
“We are hoping to use the Homewood process as a template moving forward for other south suburban towns if they choose to unionize,” explained Cameron Day, staff representative for AFSCME Council 31. He said libraries are a growing arena for unions, given the dramatic changes spurred by continually evolving technology on the institutions.
“Change is constant,” Stilts said. “And we do have to adapt. That’s part of meeting the needs of our patrons and the community.”
While Homewood is the first library in the area to organize under AFSCME Council 31, Homewood Public Works Department employees have been members for decades, Day explained, adding in general Homewood tends to be a union-friendly town.
“We are hoping for the same relationship with the library that we have with public works,” said Day.
In Illinois, more than 1,000 AFSCME Council 31 members work in library systems in Springfield, Champaign, Peoria, Elk Grove Village, Berwyn, Chicago, Aurora, Rockford and Homewood, according to Day.
This story was updated Saturday, April 22, with additional informaion.