CityOpinion

The City of Edmonton needs to support Edmonton Public Library employees

EPL workers deserve a fair deal that reflects their contributions to our city.

“We Share” is the mission of the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), and it goes above and beyond to achieve this. But the City of Edmonton hasn’t been in a sharing and caring spirit when it comes to library workers. 

Library employees have been without raises or contracts since 2018 and 2020 respectively. The city doesn’t seem ready to amend this, either with new contracts or a fair increase in wages.

EPL employees need wages that reflect their value and the cost of living in Edmonton. Right now, that’s not what they’re receiving. If they don’t receive a fair offer from the city, employees are considering a possible strike, which would be a fair move on their part. With all that libraries do for our communities, the least the city can do is offer fair wages in return.

Inflation is making budgeting tight for everyone — including the city. But, libraries need to be a priority in Edmonton. They provide services outside of lending books that help educate and improve people’s lives. The programs and services they provide create a welcoming space for marginalized groups, families, and the overall community. The city needs to show that they understand the priceless contributions EPL makes to our city. 

With minimal support, EPL has had to adjust to the ever-changing needs and demands of Edmontonians over recent years. They have expanded their collections and programming — both online and in-person — to meet the needs of the community at every turn. Resources, programs, and materials are all free for Edmontonians to access, which is important now more than ever. Edmonton libraries also promote local art at various locations. None of this would be possible without the employees at EPL.

EPL employees do far more than shelving books, and their wages need to reflect that. Library employees deserve support from the city. They can start simply by increasing salaries and securing contracts, a relatively small fix to a much larger issue.

Additionally, EPL is constantly working toward truth and reconciliation. They have books and movies in their collection that center the stories of Indigenous people. They also host classes that teach Cree, a language not often taught elsewhere. EPL even has an Elder-in-Residence available as a resource for Edmontonians to meet with. An organization that prioritizes Indigenous peoples’ stories should be a priority for the city in its work towards truth and reconciliation.

The value of EPL’s work isn’t the only reason library employees deserve a raise. Edmontonians are struggling with the cost of living — and that includes library employees. During a cost of living crisis, it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure their employees can afford at least the basic necessities. Yet, the city seems to expect library employees to live off the same wages they had six years ago. Because of inflation, rent, groceries, utilities, car insurance, and other expenses aren’t the same as they were in 2017. EPL employees that can’t financially support themselves may be forced to leave their position. These are employees that, quite frankly, the city can’t afford to lose. City employees shouldn’t be put in this situation in the first place.

Given all that library employees do for our community, they are justified in asking for more. Library workers aren’t unreasonable to go on strike after years with no raises and contracts. The city and public shouldn’t take what these employees do for granted. The public should support EPL employees going on strike if that is what the city needs to take this seriously. Strikes are about collective bargaining, and public support can put more pressure on the municipality to treat library workers fairly.

Libraries are more than just books. They are places to connect and learn. They are a reflection of the care and time the employees at EPL put into our community. And these employees deserve more than no raises for five years and no contracts. The city needs to do right by library workers and all that they do for our city. It shouldn’t take a strike for the city to do this, but EPL employees have every right to go on one.

Leah Hennig

Leah is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

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