Northwestern University Library Workers unionize, march to Provost’s office


Illustration by Angeli Mittal

Within the new union, Northwestern’s library workers hope to negotiate with the University for better benefits.

Ilana Arougheti, Assistant City Editor

Over 130 Northwestern library workers announced their unionization at a Tuesday assembly. 

The workers organized at The Rock at noon, then marched to Provost Kathleen Hagerty’s office to deliver a list of demands. Library workers are responding in part to furloughs and other financial cuts enacted during the pandemic, including retirement fund decreases, layoffs and a lack of hazard pay, according to a Tuesday news release. 

NU Library Workers Union will unionize in connection with SEIU Local 73, which represents primarily public service and school district workers in Illinois and Indiana. Library workers are asking that the University either formally recognize the union has formed or at least recognize the union’s right to form, according to the release.

University spokesperson Jeri Ward told The Daily that NU is currently reviewing the petition from Local 73 seeking to unionize library employees.

“Is Northwestern going to voluntarily recognize us? No. Are they going to talk to us in good faith? No,” Interlibrary Loan Assistant Drew Clower said during the march. “But we are going to not let them scare us. No fear, no doubt. We got this — we already have enough support to win.” 

In the release, library workers criticized the University for failing to rehire library workers after announcing a budget surplus late last year. Fewer staffers made it difficult to carry out existing library programming, but NU often expected them to go above and beyond with new programming, according to the release.

Workers also expressed frustration toward NU’s use of a merit-based system to distribute raises that they said should have instead been disbursed to reflect rising cost of living expenses. 

“Our union will give us the power to require transparency and have a voice in hiring and transfer practices and reorganizations,” Library Assistant Jill Waycie said in the release.

Clowers said the union will host several meetings in the coming weeks to discuss next steps. According to the union website, a bargaining committee made of library workers, with guidance from a Local 73 negotiation professional, will work to broker a contract with NU renegotiating library employees’ benefits.

Organizations including NU Graduate Workers, Students Organizing for Labor Rights and the Milwaukee Art Museum staff union have expressed their support for the new union.

“The fight won’t be easy,” NUGW wrote in an Instagram post, citing expectations of intimidation and backlash from Northwestern’s administration. “But we believe in our fellow workers in their fight for a unionized, dignified workplace!” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ilana_arougheti

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