Library Board OKs Labor Agreements

New contracts affect 44 Ann Arbor library employees

Ann Arbor District Library board special meeting (Dec. 8, 2011): A 10-minute meeting wrapped up more than 18 months of negotiations, as the AADL board unanimously approved contracts with its two labor bargaining units.

Margaret Leary, Josie Parker

Josie Parker, right, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, talks with AADL board chair Margaret Leary at the board's Dec. 8 special meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

The board had called a special meeting for Thursday to vote on these contracts, which run from Jan. 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015. The agreements are with the Ann Arbor District Library Staff Associates, which represents 30 employees, and the Ann Arbor District Librarians Association, which represents 14 AADL librarians. All but two of these 44 workers are full-time employees with benefits. The library employs a staff of nearly 200 at its five location throughout the district, including about 100 full-time workers.

The previous contracts expired on June 30, 2010. The main difference between the old and new contracts relates to a change in health insurance providers, plans and employee contributions, according to AADL director Josie Parker. She said she appreciated the hard work that both sides of the negotiations had done to reach an agreement.

The two AADL bargaining units are part of the Michigan Education Association, dating back to the years prior to 1996 when the library was still part of the Ann Arbor public schools system. Paul Morrison, executive director of the Ann Arbor Education Association – the local MEA unit – participated in negotiations and described the outcome as “not great for labor” but reasonable, given the economic circumstances.

The board took two other actions at its meeting on Thursday: (1) a vote to cancel its Dec. 15 meeting, because there are no pressing agenda items; and (2) a vote to call an executive session for its Jan. 16, 2012 meeting, to discuss the written opinion of its legal counsel.

Labor Agreements Finalized

There was little discussion at Thursday’s meeting about the two labor agreements. Board chair Margaret Leary noted that trustees had received copies of the documents for review earlier this week, and had discussed the negotiations extensively in executive sessions over the last year. [.pdf of agreement with Ann Arbor District Library Staff Associates] [.pdf of agreement with Ann Arbor District Librarians Association]

AADL director Josie Parker told the board it was with great pleasure that she was bringing the agreements for a vote, and noted that they would be effective from Jan. 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015. [AADL's fiscal year ends on June 30.]

Barbara Murphy, the board’s treasurer, thanked the staff for their perseverance, observing that it had been a long haul and everyone had worked hard to arrive at an agreement.

Outcome: In separate votes, the board unanimously approved the two labor agreements.

Glen Modell, co-president of the staff associates bargaining unit, and Beth Anderson, the librarians association bargaining committee representative, attended Thursday’s meeting but did not address the board. When queried by The Chronicle after the board adjourned the meeting, Modell indicated that he preferred not to comment on the agreement or the negotiations, other than to say that it was a long process.

In response to an email from The Chronicle, Paul Morrison of the Ann Arbor Education Association left a message on voicemail describing the negotiations as very difficult due to economic constraints of the public sector. The process went through the entire range of steps, including fact-finding and mediation, he said. The outcome is “not great for labor,” Morrison said, but is reasonable considering the circumstances.

The contracts, because of their duration, provide some stability for both employees and the board, he said. Morrison said he hoped to see a brighter future for employees, “but it will be a while.”

The agreements cover a range of issues, including health insurance, a grievance and arbitration procedure, seniority, layoff and recall, vacations, leaves of absence, and performance evaluations, among others. The salary range for librarians in 2011-2012 is set between $41,743 and $59,579. The salary for staff, with six pay grades, ranges from $25,081 to $59,579.

In response to a Chronicle query, Parker elaborated on the agreements. For the new contracts, the bargaining units chose to accept the same health care providers and plans as AADL’s non-union staff, she said. She noted that currently, the health insurance offered to non-union employees falls well below the state-mandated caps that take effect Jan. 1. [On Jan. 1, 2012, public employers will be prohibited from paying more than $5,500 for health benefits annually for a single employee, $11,000 for an employee plus spouse, or $15,000 for family coverage.]

The final agreement was the same as the library’s initial offer, Parker said. Employees have five plan options with three health care providers – Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Care Network, and Priority Health – at varying costs. Two of the plans that are the least expensive, offered by Blue Care Network and Priority Health, are based on health incentives. Some of the concerns raised by unions related to these plans, which were considered as intrusive. [These types of insurance plans reward certain health behaviors – not smoking, for example, or following treatment regimes for chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.]

Parker noted that more than half of AADL’s full-time staff with benefits already choose from these plans and are satisfied. The health incentive plans aren’t mandatory and there are other options, she said, so the library felt the selection was reasonable and fair.

The lack of a renegotiated agreement with AADL’s bargaining units had an impact on the district’s finances in the last fiscal year. The library administration had anticipated reaching an agreement with the unions earlier than it did, and had budgeted for lower employee benefit expenses during fiscal 2010-2011 – $1.5 million, compared to $1.678 million approved for the previous year’s budget.

However, health care costs were higher for the fiscal 2010-2011 year than budgeted, requiring that the board authorize the transfer of $60,000 from the salaries and benefits line item into the employee benefits line item at the end of the fiscal year. The board took that action, along with other year-end budget adjustments, at its June 20, 2011 meeting.

Employee benefits for 2011-2012 are budgeted at $1.51 million out of an overall $12.034 million budget.

In response to a question from The Chronicle, Parker indicated that labor issues have no connection to the recent decision to explore the future of the downtown library building on South Fifth Avenue. [See Chronicle coverage: "Library to Restart Downtown Facility Review"]

Parker said she appreciated the hard work of all involved on both sides of the negotiations. The agreements were signed by Parker, board chair Margaret Leary, AADL associate directors Ken Nieman and Eli Neiburger, and human resources manager DeAnn Doll. The Ann Arbor District Librarians Association agreement was signed by co-presidents Lucy Roehrig and Betsy Baier, Ann Arbor Education Association executive director Paul Morrison, and bargaining committee representative Beth Anderson. The Ann Arbor District Library Staff Associates agreement was signed by co-presidents Graham Lewis and Glen Modell, bargaining committee representative Robin Madigan, and Morrison of the AAEA.

Present: Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.

Absent: Rebecca Head

Next meeting: Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]

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