Library Seeks Further Talks With Union

Posted July 25, 2007 at 6:18pm

After an arbitrator ruled against the Library of Congress in its dispute with a union, LOC officials will pursue further mediation to establish consistent guidelines for all of its collective bargaining units’ reporting requirements.

A grievance arbitrator ruled last week that officials at the LOC Professional Guild properly have reported representational activities according to its collective bargaining agreement and federal statute.

That ruling, handed down by arbitrator James Harkless, went against a Library grievance filed in October that accused the union of not providing enough details in reporting union activities that occur during official work time. The guild called Harkless’ overall ruling “a victory for employee rights at the Library of Congress.”

But the issue is not yet completely closed.

The Library has reopened the guild’s bargaining agreement, aiming to have the group report official time at a level of specificity similar to how the Library’s other three unions do so, according to LOC spokesman Matt Raymond.

“The Library continues to pursue mediation to resolve the ambiguities in the guild’s current collective bargaining agreement that contributed to this decision, to help establish consistency among the Library’s bargaining units and to ensure accountability for union activities on government time,” Raymond said.

Guild President Saul Schniderman said a mediator is expected to be brought in to hash things out. The guild has maintained that providing greater specifics to the Library could silence union activities.

“The guild will always stand for privacy and confidentiality rights at the Library, and we question why management wants this information,” Schniderman said.

If the two sides fail to come to an agreement during the mediation process, the issue will move to the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which will make a final decision on if and how to revise the bargaining agreement, Raymond said.

“We’re confident that the fact that three out of four unions are now required to report the same level of detail, as well as the basic issue of fiscal accountability, would encourage FSIP to adopt the Library’s position,” he said.

Raymond also noted that Harkless did not entirely go against the Library in his ruling, which was handed down on July 16.

While Harkless found that the official time reports submitted to the Library were in line with the bargaining agreement, some forms did not include required information such as room numbers, and Harkless asked the guild to “correct these deficiencies.”

In a separate grievance, the guild accused Library officials of threatening to put union officers and stewards on leave without pay or forced leave if they did not report more detailed information — but Harkless ruled that the Library didn’t make the threat, according to Raymond.

“Harkless agreed with the Library that no threat was made, denying the Guild’s grievance against the Library and assessing his fees entirely against the Guild on that grievance,” Raymond wrote.

Although the unfair labor practice claim was dismissed, the guild pointed to the original grievance filed by Charles Carron, the Library’s director of the Office of Workforce Management, as evidence that the Library had threatened to convert leave time.

In that grievance, Carron wrote that the Library is seeking “sufficient detail in their official time reports” to determine if official time is being used reasonably, and that “any insufficiently documented official time from September 1, 2006 and ongoing be converted to annual leave or Leave Without Pay.”