Boston University Student Government has endorsed a boycott against the use of in-person library services and released a petition demanding library staff receive proper workplace accommodations.
These actions come after multiple members of the library staff were denied full workplace accommodations for the Spring semester, despite receiving them in the Fall.
George Boag, the president of the United Auto Workers Local 2324 union that represents clerical workers — which includes some BU library staff — said the decision to grant workplace accommodations was left up to BU’s different departments.
“The library seems to be really stubborn about getting people back, more so than any of the other departments,” Boag said. “Even other departments that have started bringing back aren’t as aggressive at it as the libraries are.”
College of Arts and Sciences freshman Vivian Dai, a StuGov senator and the communications director for the COVID-19 University Oversight Committee, said she helped co-sponsor the resolution and served as a point of contact between library staff and unions.
Dai said StuGov is encouraging students to participate in the boycott by reaching out to different organizations across campus.
“I think it is really important for students to show support for library staff and show that we’re grateful for all the work that they do for us,” she said, “and that we really do care whether or not the school is trying to keep them safe.”
Dai said many library employees who were denied workplace accommodations for the Spring semester have roles that can be done entirely remote.
“You never see them when you come to the library as a student,” she said. “You don’t interact with them in any way.”
Librarians have filed grievances, Dai said, but the process is very long and is not the quickest avenue of making change.
“It’s a lot faster to get workplace adjustments or safer working conditions or better care, whatever you’re campaigning for,” Dai said, “if you have teeth to bring the administration to the table.”
So far, Dai said, the administration has been “radio silent” in response to the boycott.
StuGov’s petition cites University Librarian K. Matthew Dames as the pivotal decision maker for workplace accommodations. StuGov is working on an email template that students will be able to use for emails to Dames.
Dames declined to comment.
Because the union cannot legally strike while under contract, Boag said, action from students is crucial because they have the power to get the administration’s attention.
“BU is very concerned about the students and how the students react to things,” Boag said. “That’s why when the Student Government made this an issue, it helped us, it brings attention to us.”
CAS Sen. Savannah Majarwitz, a junior and member of the CUOC who co-sponsored the petition with Dai, said BU’s libraries have functioned well during the pandemic.
“These library workers were successful in doing their job when we first transitioned to online learning last March,” Majarwitz said, “and they were also successful in doing their job last semester as well.”
Majarwitz said she believes BU administration is trying to return to normalcy, but that is not the current reality.
“The University is being a little hypocritical about the stance on the health and safety of the workers,” she said. “We’re told, ‘Take more COVID tests if you can, be hyper vigilant about it,’ and yet they’re forcing their own staff to come to the university.”
Thank you so much for your coverage of this important issue! Students who want to join us in supporting library staff can sign the petition here: https://bit.ly/BUStaffSupportPetition2021
Thank You for this VERY IMPORTANT NEWS !!!!
Great article. Student support for campus workers is critical to ensuring fair treatment and higher quality services. What goes around, comes around!