Excluded by state ruling, Miami University librarians launch own union efforts

In the wake of a recent rejection by a state labor board, Miami University librarians announced they are taking up their own petition campaign to form an employee union.

Earlier this month, Miami’s Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM) saw the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) rule in its favor to allow the faculty group to include some Miami University employees in an upcoming union authorization vote but not others.

But among the Miami employees designated as not authorized were librarians at the university’s Oxford main campus and regional campuses at Hamilton and Middletown, which total 30 such staffers.

In a recent statement from FAM officials, they publicly endorsed the school librarians’ effort to form a collective bargaining group in its labor relations with Miami.

“FAM organizers originally sought to include all full-time faculty at Miami—including librarians—in their unit. However, the State Employment Relations Board decision excluded the librarians from the unit, in part as they were labeled by the university as staff and not as faculty as they are at most Ohio public universities,” said FAM officials.

“However, the ruling did not preclude them from filing to form their own unit.”

Teaching professors, clinical faculty and lecturers (TCPL) — longer-term contract faculty — were included in the possible new union unit along with tenured and tenure-track faculty, alliance officials said previously.

Also excluded by the state labor ruling were instructors, visiting assistant professors and those in hybrid faculty-staff positions.

The pro-union effort, which has been seeking to unionize the school’s faculty since spring 2020, at the time described the state’s early March ruling as a “mixed bag” and said they were disappointed about the Miami employees who are not allowed to vote on or join any newly formed union as sought by FAM.

But Miami University officials have previously said the ruling was not a positive for the school, which is Butler County’s largest employer with workers at both the main and regional campuses and a Learning Center in West Chester Twp.

On Friday, when asked about the school librarians’ efforts, Miami officials said they are aware of the move and will officially respond to state labor officials within the allowed 21-day timeframe.

“Our librarians play a critical part in furthering our university mission and delivering academic excellence to our students,” said school officials.

“While the Miami University administration does not believe unionization is the best path forward, we respect the right of our librarians to unionize. This decision rests solely in their hands. The university will continue to support and work openly with librarians on all campuses and ensure that they are informed of next steps on this and all university matters.”

Ken Irwin, a Miami University web services librarian, favors a union.

“We stand in solidarity with the classroom faculty — we are ready to win our own bargaining unit as part of the FAM family,” said Irwin.

Miami Science Librarian Ginny Boehme is confident that Miami librarians have the support they need to win their election when the time comes: “When we filed our original petition to bring our voices together with FAM, we meant it, and we have the full, enthusiastic support of our colleagues.”

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