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Queens Library Quiet on Private Custodial Contract

January 20, 2014

Local 1321 custodians and librarians protest in October Queens Library's outsourcing.
Local 1321 custodians and librarians protest in October Queens Library’s outsourcing.

By Marc Bussanich 

Queens, NY—Back in October public service employees working for the Queens Library held a rally outside the central library in Jamaica to notify the public about the library’s outsourcing of custodial jobs to a private contractor. In November, the union’s legal department filed an improper practice petition under the State Employment Relations Act to oppose the Library’s use of contract labor. 

John Hyslop, president of DC 37’s Local 1321 that represents librarians, clerks and custodians at Queens Library, said the Library is claiming it has to contract out work because it isn’t receiving enough funding from the city. The Library’s website reveals it received in Fiscal Year 2012 total funding of $126 million with the majority of funding, 86 percent, coming from the city. But Hyslop noted that the Library has found money to pay high salaries for non-union staff.

“Since 2011, Queens Library administration has found enough money to allocate $2.7 million for non-union administrative raises and new managers,” said Hyslop.

According to the local, the Library’s president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante, salary in 2012 was a whopping $379,313.

“He’s probably one of the highest paid executives in the city, and he’s just running a public library; he’s not running the department of health or the police department,” Hyslop said.

In addition to Galante’s high salary, there is 21 administrative staff that each earned six figure salaries in 2012, according to the union.

One of the main reasons the union filed the improper practice is because it wants full access to the contract that the Llibrary signed with the private contractor, Busy Bee, but the Library refuses to share that information.

Hyslop explained that the wage rates for the non-union contract workers call for paying them $14.95 to cleaners and porters, $15.50 to specialty specialty cleaners and $15.75 to supervisors.

Apparently, however, they may be earning less than that because Hyslop noted that a nephew of a Local 1321 member worked for Busy Bee and had to apply for public assistance to help make ends meet.

“The Library is making taxpayers pay twice: one for library services and the other for social services. As a resident of Queens, I don’t want my tax dollars to pay unlivable wages,” he said.

Hyslop also noted that the Library claims that it would rehire union custodians if it received more resources from the city. But that’s not stopping the Library from wanting to replace union custodians with non-union custodial contractors at the Flushing Branch.

When asked if he thinks the Library’s ultimate goal is to replace all 75 custodians it employs Hyslop couldn’t say, but there is precedent.

“They slowly forced union security agents out and replaced them with guards from FJC Security, a private security firm in Queens,” Hyslop said.

It seems the Queens Library is exploiting a provision in the labor contract with Local 1321, which allows the Library to contract out. Hyslop pointed out that his predecessor agreed to a contract-out provision in a previous labor contract but believes that the Library shouldn’t be doing it.

“My argument is just because you can, you shouldn’t. The morale impact has been devastating. The staff are very upset, especially the custodians who feel their jobs are being undermined by contractors,” Hyslop said.

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