AFSCME Library Members Organize to Save Miami-Dade’s Libraries

AFSCME Local 199 members in the Miami-Dade library system are at the forefront of an important community initiative to save the County’s libraries. On Friday, June 27th our members helped organize a successful community event and storytime in Cooper Park to send a message to Miami-Dade County commissioners that the community loves its libraries. The event was attended by 250 community members and children. 

Miami-Dade’s libraries face a $20 million shortfall created by faulty County budgeting, which has drained historically allocated funding from the system. The shortfall threatens vital services and resources provided by the libraries, could cause the closure of up to 19 branches, and could result in layoffs for some 250 trained and experienced library staff. The threat to the libraries can be avoided, however, if on July 15th during a budget meeting for fiscal year 2015, Miami-Dade County Commissioners vote to restore funding to the system.

Working with community allies and fellow library advocates, AFSCME library members have pursued an aggressive organizing campaign focusing on three fronts: They have circulated a petition and collected signatures from an overwhelming majority of the library staff demanding accountability and answers from Miami-Dade’s library administration; launched an initiative to inform County Commissioners that residents want libraries to be fully funded; and they have worked tirelessly to raise awareness in the community about what is happening to the system. “As frontline staff, we have an obligation to make sure that [library] patrons have access to the services and resources they need, and that’s what we’re fighting for,” said Melissa Parada-Pla, an AFSCME member and Library Assistant III at Miami’s main library branch.

Our members’ work thus far has inspired many of their coworkers to join the union. Seeing strength in numbers and the power of coming together to organize for change moved Giselle Alonso to join during the June 27th storytime event. “The union has been so active, working and fighting for us. I have seen first-hand how we have been able to move things forward because of organizing and strength in numbers,” said Alonso.