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Enoch Pratt Free Library employees agree to unionize in landslide vote

Workers at the Enoch Pratt Free Library voted overwhelmingly to form a union.

An official vote count from the mail ballot election took place Nov. 18, with workers successfully voting 218-12 to join together as Pratt Workers United. The new bargaining unit will now represent about 330 workers from the Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) system’s 22 library branches throughout Baltimore.

Workers first announced their intent to unionize with AFSCME Council 67 on June 1, citing better wages, a safer working environment, consistency in hiring and promotion processes at the library, and an overall desire for respect as staff as primary motivations for organizing.

Although Pratt Workers United (PWU) was able to demonstrate majority support for a staff union at EPFL, the board of trustees and directors rejected a request to voluntarily recognize the union and instead signed an agreement for a union election facilitated by the American Arbitration Association from Oct. 28 through Nov. 18.

Throughout the organizing process, workers received support from local community members, businesses and library workers throughout the country. A community letter of support posted on PWU’s website has collected more than 700 signatures to date.

On Nov. 18, workers gathered at AFSCME Council 67’s Union Hall to celebrate the results of the vote count together. For workers like Barae Hirsch, who works at EPFL’s Bookmobile, PWU’s union victory represents a win for library workers all over the country. They say winning a union at EPFL is proof that workers hold the power to make change in the spaces and institutions they constitute.