Cleveland Public Library union set to vote on strike

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CLEVELAND (WJW)-- The Cleveland Public Library is in the thick of negotiations with employees represented by SEIU. A union vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

The vote will determine if union leaders will be able to authorize a strike. A union representative said there are 386 union members at 27 branches and two main buildings downtown.

"We love our patrons, we service them every day. We have long-standing relationships. This is really coming at a hard time and hopefully, this can work this out," said Lisa Malone, an executive member of SEIU.

The library said if a strike were to happen, one of the programs that would need to be scaled back is the after-school free lunches currently provided at all 27 branches across the city. Other impacts include tutoring, technology and WiFi access.

"We're going to try to have as many services as we can across the city as we always do. But it will be a scaled-back service, if that did happen then," said John Skrtic, director of public services.

Library officials said they are committed to providing the best services they can, especially for young people.

"The youth may not have anywhere to go at the end of their school and we provide a safe haven for them to be able to come in towards and utilize the resources that we do have available to them," said Hariette Parks, director of public services at the library.

Malone has been with the library for 30 years.

"Our primary concerns have been staffing and security. We have become pretty much severely understaffed," Malone said.

Library officials said they take the safety of staff and patrons seriously. They said they are working toward having security presence at all of their branches.

Ultimately, both sides said they hope an agreement can be reached.

"We've been coming to the table working collaboratively together and we made some great progress over the last couple of months," Skrtic said.

"The library and I feel that we can come to an agreement at some point, hopefully. No one wants a strike so it would be beneficial for both parties to come together, but we`ll see what happens," Malone said.

Meetings are scheduled for Jan. 17 and 23 for further negotiations.

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