In 2021, after years of DPL reducing our quality of life and finally, our job security (by making us at-will employees), a group of workers started organizing together to collectively push for greater choice, voice, safety, transparency and democracy in our library system. Denver Public Library Workers United was formed. Our union was created to build solidarity and worker power and have a voice in decisions that affect our lives and to make the library a welcoming, dignified, and safe place for its workers and patrons.
This year Denver voters approved 2I funding, a massive boost to our overall budget that will create consistent funding to bolster library services for years to come and provide some needed relief from wage compression. Unfortunately, workers have been disappointed by the lack of transparency around the pay adjustment process and the disconnect between those making decisions and those who live with the decisions. DPLWU sees our administration’s approach defined by penny-pinching rather than the generosity and restoration we deserve. DPL workers, in particular frontline workers, will still face deep inequities in our compensation after this adjustment. The funding allocated to compensation adjustments, less than $5 million for more than 600 staff, is inadequate and irresponsible. In addition, our annual performance-based raises do not keep up with inflation, and these raises are rooted in an unequal, biased system that expects us to ‘exceed expectations’ to warrant a mere 4.5% increase in pay. With no cost of living adjustment and pitiful and inequitable merit raises, workers should expect to have effective wage decreases until administration decides our financial well-being is a priority.
Frontline staff do not have a seat at the table in compensation change conversations, or any major decision at the library, leading to cruel inequities such as shelving experience not counting as relevant experience for librarians and the exclusion of on-call staff in last December’s bonuses. However, we have seen the impact our collective action can have in these decisions when we do speak up, as on-call staff-led advocacy brought on-call staff into the 2I bonuses in March!
While the library administration pushes to expand hours and open additional branches as soon as is imaginable, our HR department, the department responsible for hiring and staff issues, is deeply understaffed–as are many of the branches that are currently slated for reopening in July. This is extremely concerning–expanding hours without adequate branch staffing, training, and workers’ input is a serious safety and equity issue that will compound existing issues. Library administration must slow down, put our safety and dignity first, adequately staff our HR department before rapidly expanding our overall staff size, and adequately staff our branches before relentlessly increasing our open hours and days.
Workers at DPL want to have a say in our work–we know we, not expensive consultants, are the people best qualified to make decisions related to our work and lives. DPLWU offers another vision: a workplace in which all workers have a voice in decisions that affect us, and where dignity, equity, and safety come before relentless expansion. Become part of this movement of library workers for a democratic library. Join us today.