‘Only one clear answer’: Campus librarians protest over contract negotiations with the UC

Allen Zeng /Staff

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UC Berkeley librarians, wearing blue tape on their mouths and shirts that read “librarians will not be silent,” met Friday on the steps of Doe Memorial Library for a protest regarding contract negotiations with the University of California that began April 16.

Campus librarians have been meeting with the UC to negotiate salaries, housing benefits, academic freedom and professional development funding, among other articles within their contracts. Currently, campus librarians are working out of contract.

“One of the main things is we’re asking for competitive salaries for librarians. Right now, (California State University) librarians earn somewhere between 25 and 37 percent more, on average, than librarians at the University of California,” said Margaret Phillips, a librarian in the campus social sciences division. “As you know, librarians have advanced degrees and specialities.”

Librarians are currently asking the UC for a $3,500 salary increase across the board, with a 5 percent increase the second year, then a 5 percent increase in the third and a 6 percent increase in the fourth year in a four-year contract.

Currently, academic freedom is also not outlined in contracts for UC librarians. According to Kendra K. Levine, a campus librarian at the campus Institute of Transportation Studies, academic freedom is the ability of academics to research and collect texts that may be controversial without repercussions from their employers.

“The librarians tried to put forth an affirmation of academic freedom. As academic employees, we have academic freedom, as it says in the academic personnel manual. But we want to affirm that in our contract,” Phillips said. “The university came back and said, well, they don’t think academic freedom was a good fit for librarians.”

Along with salary increases, librarians want the UC to increase professional development funding in order to enable librarians to attend conferences and develop research and presentation skills, according to David Eifler, a campus environmental design librarian. He added that librarians want the housing benefits that faculty receive.

According to Levine, despite having multiple degrees, librarians have given testimonials during negotiations with the UC about living in studio apartments, living with roommates, liquidating their savings and selling their homes just to continue to work in the campus libraries.

“The main issue is that everyone in the Bay Area and in California is facing this issue, that there is not enough affordable housing, but it’s especially acute in the Bay Area,” Levine said. “We’re asking for the housing benefits offered to faculty available for librarians and be used for recruiting as well. … For Berkeley, (faculty housing benefits are) a consideration on a reduced rate for a mortgage.”

According to UC spokesperson Danielle Smith, the UC is offering “proposals that are very favorable to UC librarians” and wants to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

“There’s been a lot of money that is going toward administration, toward new administrative positions. The Assembly, the state of California, has clearly recognized this, and so we’re seeing a bifurcation of wages on this campus,” Eifler said. “So while your tuition continues to go up, our living conditions continue to go down. You have to ask where is all that money going, and there’s unfortunately only one clear answer.”

Contact Mariam Zagub at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MZagub.