Wednesday, May 30, 2012



All people deserve to have their dignity and rights protected in the workplace. 

Today, shareholders at ExxonMobil will vote on a resolution proposed by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The company's refusal to substantially implement a written equal employment policy allows ExxonMobil to continue to deny domestic partner benefits to its employees in the United States and is in conflict with anti-discrimination and marriage equality statutes in New York State.

The $150.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund holds approximately 16.2 million shares of ExxonMobil with an estimated market value of $1.3 billion.  In 2011, the shareholder proposal garnered significant support, receiving votes representing over 500 million shares with a market value of more than $42.4 billion. 

The Comptroller has urged companies in which the Fund invests to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. DiNapoli believes that companies that do so reap the benefit of drawing from the widest pool of talent possible to grow their business and mitigate their risk of litigation and potential reputational harm.  Over the past few years, DiNapoli has reached agreements with 27 portfolio companies to adopt new non-discrimination policies.

Advocates and even ExxonMobil's hometown newspaper have come out in support of the resolution.

Last week, the Dallas Morning News applauded DiNapoli's efforts, saying, "His sound argument is that companies that extend  protection to all employees have a competitive advantage in drawing workers and  mitigate their risk of litigation."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said, “ExxonMobil has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT employees for years.  With each passing year, it becomes more apparent that instituting inclusive non-discrimination policies is the right thing to do.  This year alone, the New York State Comptroller said it’s fiscally responsible, the SEC cleared a path to progress, and the oil giant’s hometown newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, called on the company to protect all workers”

Empire State Pride Agenda Interim Executive Director Lynn A. Faria said, “Comptroller DiNapoli’s principled stand for the right of all people to be equally protected in the workplace is commendable, and we appreciate that he is using his role as one of the nation’s largest institutional investors to push for LGBT equality and justice."   

Comptroller DiNapoli has been active on this and other issues of corporate responsibility in his role as the fiduciary of the pension fund. We encourage you to follow the Comptroller on Facebook at for the latest news on this and other initiatives.


DiNapoli 2014

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)
Posted on 30 May 2012 at 11:38am

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Rochester, N.Y.—CSEA Monroe County Local 828 is hosting a General Membership meeting to be held at Monroe Community College, Brighton Campus, on Tuesday, June 5 at 5:30 pm.  The meeting will take place in the R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center Building, Monroe B. You can park in Lot M.

Please call Barbara at Local HQ at 328-5250 or email Sue Trottier at if you plan on attending.  We need to have an accurate count for parking spots and meals. Do not delay.

President Watts will be highlighting our collective accomplishments since the last general membership meeting in November as well as sharing info about our committees and local constituency groups.   We hope you can attend this very important meeting.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


The Koldin Law Firm conducted an Elder Law seminar to educate our members
on critical decisions that affect our working families. photo: Sue Trottier

Penfield, N.Y.—On May 22, CSEA Local 828 Executive Board sponsored an Elder Law Seminar at the Dolomite Lodge in Penfield, N.Y.

The presenters were legal experts Scott & Len Koldin, from the Law Offices of Koldin Law. Nearly 30 members and 19 guests attended from Units from Retirees Local 912, MCC, Webster Blue & White Collar, Greece, Penfield, Irondequoit White Collar and our largest Unit, the Full Time Monroe County Employees.

Koldin Law provided extensive packets for attendees. Topics discussed included, nursing home care, wills, power of attorney, health care proxies, gifting, long-term care insurance and trusts.

Because of the demand for information on this subject, Local Officers are looking to holding the same seminar later this year. Evaluation forms offered by attendees suggested that the workshop should be 90 minutes instead of 50.


CSEA Local 828 held a driver training safety seminar on May 15, 2012 at
the Brighton Town Park, Brighton, N.Y. on May 15. photo: Sue Trottier

Brighton, N.Y. -- On May 15, CSEA Local 828 hosted a Commercial Vehicle Seminar at the Brighton Town Park, in Brighton N.Y. The presenters were Larry Sesnie & Hector Sotomayor from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

24 CSEA Local 828 members attended from the towns of Webster, Penfield, Greece, Brighton and Monroe County Units. Topics of discussion included when tires are safe; what types of licences prevail when driving big rigs; and general safety tips.

After the hour long presentation, members shared in a robust question and answer period with the facilitators.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


May 24, 2012

Three Youths Win Prizes in “Lend Us Your Story” Video Contest

Rochester, N.Y.-- Mayor Thomas S. Richards and Rochester Public Library Director Patricia Uttaro announced today that three young people from Rochester are the winners of the Lend Us Your Story Video Contest. Ove Overmyer, President of the City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420 was the Project Manager.

The winners are:

· First Place: “Moses at the Maplewood Branch Library” (Video No. 12), by Moses Ntekereze, 14, an eighth grader at Knob Hill SDA School.

· Second Place: “Oumou Says There Are No Bullies at the Library” (Video No. 10), Oumou Mbodji, 12, a student at the Helen Barrett Montgomery School No. 50.

· Third Place: “Why the Library Rocks” (Video No. 37) by Christina Burnett, 18, a senior at the School Without Walls who received a scholarship to attend RIT this fall.

left to right: Moses Ntekereze, Oumou Mbodji and Christina Burnett
photo: Deb Nevin (RPL)
“I want to extend my congratulations and gratitude to the award winners and everyone who participated in this tremendous contest,” said Mayor Richards. “We are fortunate in Rochester to have such an outstanding library system, and it is gratifying to see just how much our customers appreciate that good fortune. Libraries are an essential public service, and the videos entered in this contest and the activity they generated have brought the value of that service into sharp focus.”

“I offer my congratulations to the contest winners and participants,” said Director Uttaro. “Lend Us Your Story grew out of a desire to give Library patrons a voice in describing the value libraries bring to their daily lives. The result is an invaluable collection of poignant, funny and moving stories that offer a telling picture of life in Rochester’s neighborhoods as seen through the eyes of those who share a love of learning, reading and all the wonderful programming we offer at the Rochester Public Library.”

“The Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library is proud to support the Lend Us Your Story video contest by donating Kindles to the winners,” said Executive Director Ned Davis. “We are committed to ensuring that our historic Public Library continues to play a vital role in our city. This contest has served to affirm the goals of that mission by showing us how and why so many people love their libraries.”

The RPL and the City launched the social-media video contest in April, in which library patrons submitted a short (no longer than 90 seconds) YouTube video that expressed their favorite aspects of the Library. The videos could be about something that changed the direction of a patron’s life, the simple pleasures of finding a good book to read or any other meaningful library experience customers wanted to share.

The videos were hosted on the City’s website, where the general public could view them and select their favorites. Moses, the top vote-getter, has been awarded a Kindle Fire electronic reader and the second- and third-place finishers, Oumou and Christina, each received a Kindle e-reader.

The prizes were donated by the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.

A total of 120 videos were submitted, of which 78 were eligible to win prizes in the contest. Customers viewed the videos more than 4,000 times and cast more than 3,200 votes for their favorite videos. The award winning videos earned 821; 697 and 446 votes respectively.

The submission period was held April 1-30 and the voting period was May 7 through 18.

To accommodate patrons who didn’t have video cameras or the ability to access the Internet, video crews visited City branch libraries during the submission period to record their stories.

To view the videos, vist

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


CSEA Local 828 President Bess Watts (far right) stands with the recipients
of  the CSEA Scholarship Awards for 2012. photo: Ove Overmyer

Webster, N.Y.—On May 14, the CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Executive Board and the Local 828 Scholarship Committee hosted the 20th Annual Scholarship Award Dinner at Liberty Lodge in Finn Park, 850 Maple Dr., Webster, N.Y. At the picnic supper, Local officers announced the winners of the CSEA Local 828 George M. Growney Memorial Scholarships, Unit 7400 and the Jane McManus Scholarship Award for 2012. Well over $8,000.00 was awarded to deserving area students this year.

Since 1993, CSEA Local 828 has awarded over $100,000.00 in scholarship prize money. In 1993, the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400, the largest Unit in the Local, created their own scholarship program and have distributed an additional $18,000.00.

Mr. Growney was a long time local labor leader and activist. He was employed as a probation officer with Monroe County. He served as local president for nearly two decades before his retirement in 1995. George had a passion for kids to succeed, and would be proud that his union brothers and sisters have carried on his legacy of love and commitment to youth. George M. Growney died on August 10, 1997. The scholarship program was named in his honor the following year after his death.

“This is one of the best things we do as union activists,” said Bess Watts, President of Local 828. She added, “It’s very rewarding to know we are helping our young people succeed in life.”

For a complete list of this year's winners, you can go here.

CSEA Local 828 Scholarships are open to graduating high school seniors whose parents and caregivers are members or agency shop fee payers of Monroe County Local 828. The scholarship committees have reviewed thousands of applications in the past 19 years, demonstrating a significant need of financial resources for young adults continuing their formal education.  Scholarships applicants are judged on academic achievement, a written essay, financial need and potential.

Monday, May 14, 2012


JPMorgan Chase has been lobbying to make exactly the kind of trades that just lost the company billions of dollars. 

New York-- JPMorgan Chase announced Monday that Ina Drew, the firms chief investment officer, has left the bank after revelations of a $2 billion loss sustained over the past six weeks. These developments illustrate a huge need for Congress to implement more oversight, not less regulation on the financial sector.

A statement issued by the company said Drew made the decision to retire, a move that was widely expected after the company disclosed the unit she managed had suffered a major loss.

Soon after lawmakers finished work on the nation’s new financial regulatory law, a team of JPMorgan Chase lobbyists descended on Washington. Their goal was to obtain special breaks that would allow banks to make big bets in their portfolios, including some of the types of trading that led to the $2 billion loss now rocking the bank. Several visits over months by the bank’s well-connected chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and his top aides were aimed at persuading regulators to create a loophole in the law, known as the Volcker Rule.

The rule was designed by Congress to limit the very kind of proprietary trading that JPMorgan was seeking...The loophole is known as portfolio hedging, a strategy that essentially allows banks to view an investment portfolio as a whole and take actions to offset the risks of the entire portfolio. That contrasts with the traditional definition of hedging, which matches an individual security or trading position with an inversely related investment -- so when one goes up, the other goes down. (Reporting  by Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Rochester, N.Y.-- Take a little joy ride or walk around the heart of downtown Rochester today and you will find plenty of laborers doing construction and see plenty of economic development in the works. We see the glass as half full.

Rochester is truly a city in transition and a very busy place. Most of the video was shot within the Inner Loop during the month of May 2012.

This footage was never intended for this project, but we thought this may give suburbanites and curious onlookers a peek at what's going on in the center city today. Enjoy the moment, Rochester will not look like this much longer.

Friday, May 11, 2012


  Washington, D.C.—With all the different national news narratives trying to find their rightful place on the front pages of our local newspapers, voter suppression laws that have been passed by nearly 34 GOP lead state legislatures remain one of the bigger plot lines that will negatively affect the presidential election come November.

Last week, The Washington Post reported on 2010 U.S. Census data that shows the number of Black and Latino registered voters fell sharply, with 2 million fewer voters in 2010 than 2008. Some election experts attributed the decline in Black and Latino registered voters to the bad economy, families relocating to find work and not re-registering to vote.

Voter registration numbers among African-Americans is down from 2008 as well, prompting the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to launch registration drives two months earlier than in past presidential election years.

It’s a troubling development that will no doubt negatively impact participation in November. Last March, voters and voting rights advocates in Omaha and Nebraska protested the closing of more than 100 polling locations—-over half the locations in Omaha—-by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps. Outraged citizens say the decisions were made without citizen input, and primarily affect communities with the highest percentage of minorities.  

Leaders of the NAACP and other groups blame the decline on new state laws requiring people to produce identification to register or placing limits on who can run a voter registration drive. They also say the foreclosure and job crises have affected black Americans in large numbers.

Another likely factor, said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: The excitement over the prospect of electing the first black president has faded.

The Obama-Biden re-election campaign says registration may be up since then in anticipation of the coming election. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said that increasing black voter registration is an urgent concern. "We're starting earlier, working harder, making more use of technology this year, because this year we are witnessing the ugliest environment we have seen in a long time," Jealous said.

It would be criminal if we didn’t have a president who was elected by all eligible U.S. citizens who have the right to vote but rather chosen by certain elite groups that had the privilege to vote. That’s no democracy.

In the coming months, the Voice Reporter will focus on educating the labor movement and all Americans on their rights and ensure that every eligible voter can vote. Our Voter Empowerment Campaign will serve to help Americans overcome the unfair barriers states have created blocking the right to vote – and ensure that our democracy stays intact.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


AFSCME-- Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) public workers don’t get a fair shake. In 30 states, they could be fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They experience harassment and discrimination on the job. They earn less than their straight co-workers, and they don’t have equal access to benefits like health care.

In his endorsement today of same-sex marriage, it is clear that Pres. Barack Obama wants to level the playing field for LGBT working families. This afternoon, in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, he said:
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
“President Obama’s announcement today recognizes a fundamental American right – that every citizen is entitled to respect and dignity, and the equal protection of our laws.  For too long, lesbian and gay Americans have been denied the right to marry the person they love, raise a family and live as equal citizens in our country.”

Yesterday, North Carolina became the latest in a list of states that have passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. In places where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples are denied the right to marry, working families lack access to pension benefits, Social Security survivor benefits, family health and bereavement leave and immigration of spouses and family.
Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a measure which President Obama opposes, even in states that allow same-sex marriage or where workers have won domestic partner benefits through union contracts, LGBT families are denied access to more than 1,000 federal protections and benefits.
AFSCME is on the frontlines of the fight for equality in the workplace and in every place. We are making sure LGBT public workers get a fair shot. Join us in the fight.


Washington, D.C. -- President Obama has come out in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts this afternoon:

He said, “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

His endorsement comes less than a week after Vice President Joe Biden embraced the issue during an appearance on Meet The Press and a day after North Carolina banned marriage equality and civil unions in its state constitution. During the interview, Obama stressed that he personally affirms same-sex marriage, but says the matter should be left to the individual states.

The president last made news on the freedom to marry 560 days ago, when he told progressive journalists at the White House that he is evolving towards greater acceptance.

Obama’s remarks today bring him full circle to his position in 1996, when he was running for the Illinois state Senate. In response to a questionnaire from Chicago’s Outlines gay newspaper, he proclaimed, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” You can thank President Obama for completing his evolution here.


Bess Watts
Rochester, N.Y.

I will remember this day for as long as I live. May 9, 2012. 

Earlier today, Barack Obama became the first American president to say he supports giving loving, committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. I want to congratulate the president for this bold and welcome move. 

This is a watershed moment for the labor and LGBT civil rights movements, but it's also a call to action. A president's vocal support for our community is a fantastic development, but nothing can replace the hard work it will take to ensure we win the workplace rights we all deserve. 

This year in Maryland and Washington State, marriage equality laws long sought by fair minded folks were finally passed. Those successes came after determined efforts by coalitions of faith, labor and national, state and local LGBT groups, as well as tireless lobbying by the men and women whose lives would be most affected by these victories. 

This year we have the opportunity to greatly expand the labor movement’s voice in government. With your support, we'll elect pro-labor lawmakers who will fight for us every day. And now we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our president as we ask our fellow Americans for the simple protections and responsibilities that come with equal rights for all. 

On this historic day, I'm glad to know the president is standing with us. Again, this is a call to action. Let’s get to work. 

Bess Watts
President, CSEA Monroe County Local 828
President, Rochester & Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Albany, N.Y. – Assembly member Harry B. Bronson (D-Rochester/Chili/Riga/Rush/Wheatland) announced that legislation to increase the minimum wage has passed through the Assembly Labor Committee (A.9148). Bronson is a member of the Labor Committee and a co-sponsor of this legislation.

"We have moved one step closer to increasing the minimum wage," Assembly member Bronson said. "Hardworking individuals deserve a fair wage and $7.25 an hour is not enough for people to survive on."

If this legislation passes the Assembly and Senate and is signed into law by the governor, the minimum wage would increase from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour. Increasing the minimum wage would provide tremendous relief for many people in Rochester, where according to a 2010 study, 29.4 percent live in poverty. This number is double both the national and state averages.

Currently, 18 other states-- including the neighboring states of Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts have higher minimum wages than New York. New York's minimum wage has only increased 10 cents per hour in the past five years.

"Those who work full time should not be living on the poverty line, yet that is what we are seeing with the minimum wage at $7.25," Assembly member Bronson said.

Mr. Bronson has been an active supporter of a minimum wage increase, last week he co-hosted a minimum wage roundtable with Metro Justice and other members of the community to discuss the importance of raising the minimum wage.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- Just recently, County Executive Maggie Brooks, who incidentally is running for Congress politicking on the taxpayer’s dime, signed on to an op-ed where she advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act. One reason why Brooks will not reveal her platform is because she knows the GOP national party ideology won't fly in Monroe County. 

This is not your father's GOP House-- they have been overrun by 87 House freshman who are so extreme that they have vowed to be obstructionists in every circumstance. House Speaker John Boehner has had a devil of a time trying to reel them in-- with little progress.

Brooks' major challenge right now is placating the moneyed interests of the extremely conservative national party and trying to message a less radical approach to a moderate electorate in Monroe County.

Here is an excerpt from Capitol Tonight:

“Maggie Brooks really is a champion of not saying anything and today the New York State Democratic Party is awarding her with our first ever Congressional Candidate Ducking Issues Award for her outstanding service to silence,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs.
Yesterday, for the fifth time in a month and a half, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reprimanded Brooks for failing to take a position on the issues that matter to voters. Instead she’s decided to be responsive to DC lobbyists and contributors. If you want someone who won’t say anything on the issues you care about, voters should know, Maggie Brooks is the candidate for you.”
“…Maggie Brooks is a champion of not telling voters how she feels about the issues they care about. She has really taken to heart that silence is golden.”
Brooks has refused to take a position on any federal issues – from the Ryan budget to the so-called war on women – insisting that Monroe County voters are more than familiar with her ideology and record.

Perhaps, but since she has never been pressed on anything national, like, say the debt ceiling or Social Security, voters (and reporters) could perhaps be forgiven for being curious about where Brooks stands on issues she would voting for (or against) when and if she manages to oust Democratic veteran Rep. Louise Slaughter.
Brooks might want to talk to her fellow Republican, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, about the danger of ducking issues while seeking higher office. As you’ll recall, (I’m sure Tedisco certainly does), the assemblyman’s refusal to answer questions about how he would vote on the $780 billion federal stimulus bill played a large role in his loss to Democrat Scott Murphy in the 2009 special election for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s old House seat.
After weeks of being hounded by reporters, Tedisco finally said he would have voted “no” on the stimulus bill, which Murphy supported. The damage was already done, however, and Murphy won in a squeaker. Murphy was defeated by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson in 2010, and Gibson is now trying to win re-election in a district that has been dramatically redrawn.

Any way you slice it, Brooks’ silence is deafening. And, by the way, the next time you see her, ask her if she is doing County Executive work or just campaigning on the taxpayer's dime. Who paid for the transportation to your most recent public appearance? Who paid for the phone bill? Who paid for the meals? Go ahead, ask her. Good luck with that.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- The CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Executive Board and the Local 828 Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce the winners of the CSEA Local 828 George M. Growney, Unit 7400 and the Jane McManus Scholarship Awards for 2012.

Since 1993, CSEA Local 828 has awarded over $100,000.00 in scholarship prize money. In 1994, the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400, the largest Unit in the Local, created their own scholarship program and have distributed an additional $18,000.00.

Mr. Growney was a long time local labor leader and activist. He was employed as a probation officer with Monroe County. He served as local president for nearly two decades before his retirement in 1995. George had a passion for kids to succeed, and would be proud that his union brothers and sisters have carried on his legacy of love and commitment to youth. George M. Growney died on August 10, 1997. The scholarship program was named in his honor the following year after his death.

In 1974, Jane McManus started her public service career at Rochester Public Library as a Senior Library Clerk. While a full-time employee, she also worked in the Literature and Local History Divisions. Shortly thereafter, Jane was promoted to part-time Library Assistant while working in the Reynolds Audio-Visual Department of the Central Library.

In 1991, she transferred to the Winton Branch Library and has been a Story Lady for the past 21 years. In 1993, Jane was appointed to the Part-Time Benefits Committee. In 1995, Jane was one of the founding members in establishing CSEA Local 828 Unit 7420. She remained as President of the Unit until April 2006. Jane remains active in CSEA serving as a Steward, Grievance Rep, member of the Local 828 Health & Safety Committee, and Member of the Local 828 Scholarship Committee. She’s a strong advocate for workers rights and education. Her co-workers in Unit 7420 proposed that a scholarship be named in her honor in 2010.

CSEA Local 828 Scholarships are open to graduating high school seniors whose parents and caregivers are members or agency shop fee payers of Monroe County Local 828. The scholarship committees have reviewed thousands of applications in the past 19 years, demonstrating a significant need of financial resources for young adults continuing their formal education.  Scholarships applicants are judged on academic achievement, a written essay, financial need and potential.

A scholarship award picnic supper honoring this year's recipients is planned for Monday, May 14, at Liberty Lodge in Finn Park, 850 Maple Dr., Webster, N.Y. Dinner will be served at 6:00 pm and the award ceremony will immediately follow. Please call Barb at 585.328.5250 before May 11 to RSVP.

The 2012 award winners are:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


By Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester, N.Y. Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420
AFSCME NY Local 1000 / CSEA

Rochester, N.Y.-- Disparaging public library initiatives that have produced marginal results is an insult to public library administrators and staff everywhere.

In an article written by Mr. Steve Coffman, The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire, the Library Systems & Services, LLC. (LSSI) argument fits in nicely with the austerity theories of political conservative right wing ideology-- lets attack public services because we, private corporations, pretty much own everything already and see public tax dollars as the last bastion to conquer. I take particular offense to the inflammatory use of the word "Empire," like we are in some kind of evil war. On second thought, maybe we are.

Still not the most common notion, the idea of library privatization is gaining steam around the country. We would argue that privatization would destroy our iconic houses of knowledge and quickly erode our quality of life.

Every entity, including public libraries, implement new strategies and every entity misses the mark sometimes. Isn't that how you grow? Status-quo is not good enough-- you have to make attempts to evolve and move your mission forward to be successful in carrying out your vision. Every company or government agency does that-- its part of the plan. To suggest public libraries are in decline is absurd. All you have to do is look at the statistical data we have generated in the past decade to suggest otherwise.

LSSI wants you to take your eye off the ball

Mr. Coffman’s pitch is just trying to get public librarians and local government officials to take their eye off the ball. His commentary is nothing more than a thinly-disguised knuckleball trying to drum up business.

In fact, American public library success stories heavily outweigh his hyperbolic theories. Our successes exponentially outnumber some of the library initiatives he rationalizes as "decline" and "failure."

 AFSCME and CSEA are two labor organizations that have been overtly fighting public library privatization and corporations like LSSI since 1981. Although both library administrators and staff recognize the author's talking points with attempts made to predict the needs of their communities, we believe that LSSI’s core mission at this time is unwarranted and extremely detrimental to any local government or community.

Agreed, we have seen initiatives and programs come and go-- but who would have predicted all the technology changes in this fast paced global world of ours-- it's very hard to write a plan of service when the technology you envision is outdated before you begin rolling out the software or association with a vendor. Furthermore, Mr. Coffman speaks in glittering generalities and does not substantiate his claims. He paints with broad brush strokes— a depressing abstract canvas with no defining lines.

 Privatization is the antithesis of what libraries should be

The very notion of public libraries becoming private or corporately owned flies in the face of a generations-old institution. Public libraries are truly the cornerstones and anchor of every community-- even in the digital age of the Internet and books on iPads, local libraries still act as education hubs for all citizens regardless of your walk of life.

What also differentiates public libraries being run by community stakeholders from what LSSI offers is the cost of labor-- skilled workers who earn a living wage. Library workers at LSSI libraries make less and are viewed as "cheap labor." What the American economy needs right now to build strong communities are good paying jobs with benefits-- not involuntary, temporary part time positions or minimum wage employment.

Moreover, if we move toward privatization like Mr. Coffman proposes, what we lose in the process is the ability to shape institutions that are uniquely our own. Public libraries are the only entities that can protect our opportunity to give people full and free access to information as they see fit.  Any company delivering library services would be more interested in maximizing its profits and answering to share holders rather than providing the freedom to access information and resources that require a community to maintain any standard of living.

To outsource an intellectual service suggests that it is a simple commodity that can be quantified, described in a written document or Request for Proposal (RFP), and contracted to the lowest bidder. Much of the important work of librarianship is abstract and non-quantifiable. The successful practice of librarianship is closely tied to the particular characteristics of the communities served. Considering today’s standards, to suggest a corporate business model could provide less expensive and adequate library services is suspect at best and has not been proven to be effective to date. LSSI’s track record so far has been anything but stellar.

Furthermore, corporations have traditionally been very heavy-handed in their attempts to make a profit, so in this type of situation, some formerly free services may begin to cost taxpayers money. Over time there may be a growing tension between the corporation and local citizens, and virtually every change becomes closely scrutinized by the public. The biggest downside happens if the corporation ignores the needs of the community and wields a heavy-handed corporate agenda. In effect, the library is no longer accountable to the citizen taxpayer—it becomes a slave to the shareholders and corporate owners. 

It is our belief that outsourcing library services will also lead to marginalizing the disabled, poor and our most vulnerable citizens. It would also lead to consolidation of services that would basically serve the most convenient or wealthy library users if a more capitalistic business plan is implemented.

Undeserved populations that are more difficult to reach may be excluded in the outsourced library as the contractor focuses on those benchmarks easiest to achieve with a narrower focus on customer demographics. This fear is not only being voiced by library staff in the library literature and on library listservs, but also appears in the letters to the editor and statements made at city council meetings of communities where outsourced library management is being considered.  

Privatizing Libraries,” a timely Special Report published by ALAEditions, provides a succinct but comprehensive overview of the "privatization" of public libraries. Authors Jane Jerrard, Nancy Bolt and Karen Strege provide background on the trend of local and state governments privatizing public services and assets and then examine the history of public library privatization right up to the recently introduced California legislation to restrict cities in the state from privatizing library services.

While talk of privatizing public services has fewer supporters than opponents, it’s probably a conversation that will not go away anytime soon. We should also examine what happens when a private, for-profit organization takes over essential management tasks and decisions of a public library, including the effects this can have on services, patron satisfaction and staff, as well as legal issues. Let’s put it this way-- would you rather have an out-of-town corporate raider run your local library or retain and employ community members and neighborhood professional librarians to run these institutions?

Library budget cuts are just misplaced priorities

photo: MSNBC
Shrinking public library budgets suits the LSSI narrative very well—it gets their foot in the door in the privatization conversation. 

Moreover, you would have to be living under a rock not to know American libraries are struggling with budget cuts. According to the 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report , staffing cuts happened at every level in 2011, from the local public and school library to the Library of Congress, which lost nearly 10 percent of its workforce.

Library advocates and library workers know that any dollar spent on library materials, programs and services should be considered an investment and not an expense. Libraries deliver a return on investment too, unlike other public services. While public libraries continue to do more with less, we have seen five percent more states report decreased state funding for their public libraries in 2011-2012 than in 2010–2011. Some 23 states reported cuts in state funding for public libraries, marking the third year in a row that more than 40 percent of participating states have reported decreased public library funding.

We all know budgets may be down, but we cannot overlook the fact that library usage is up: the ALA reports that public libraries in many major U.S. cities continue to see circulation rise as community stakeholders ponder privatization.

True library advocates should be very alarmed by LSSI and Mr. Coffman’s message— a move to privatize our public library systems will not make our communities fiscally stable, safer, smarter or stronger. Simply put, it will only funnel unaccountable tax payer dollars into the hands of a few corporate giants who are primarily interested in lining their own pockets with your tax dollars.