Today, we beat the privatization beast!
SEIU 721 member leaders and library workers from Los Angeles and Ventura counties led a successful 14-month campaign to protect quality public services and preserve good, middle class jobs at public libraries. AB 438 (Williams) gives communities a voice by establishing taxpayer protections through audits and standards of transparency when corporations seek to take over a trusted neighborhood resource.
“Throughout this recession, families and individuals have turned to libraries for help with everything from applying for jobs, to learning new skills, using the internet, or getting help in school” said Cindy Singer, LA County Community Library Manager and SEIU 721 Executive Board Member. “When times are tough, public institutions such as libraries prove their worth more than ever. By signing AB 438, Governor Brown put taxpayers and the public ahead of the profits of privately held corporations.”
The thought of turning a public resource into a for-profit venture struck a nerve throughout the country and the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, FOX, MSNBC and Huffington Post all ran stories about privatizing public libraries. SEIU International invested into the campaign with the privatizationbeast.org video which now has over 350,000-views.
To push the bill forward through a tough legislative process and help secure a signature, Local 721 members made dozens of lobby visits, organized events in Sacramento, and members wrote op-eds that were published in the Los Angeles Daily News, the Pasadena Star News, the Whittier Daily News, the Long Beach Press Telegram and La Opinion.
National organizations like CREDOaction.com and Change.org helped build support for the campaign amongst their activists and thousands of Californians also felt strongly about the issue of privatization of public libraries and signed petitions and made phone calls to our elected officials. In August, SEIU members delivered more than 70,000 petitions to Governor Brown asking him to sign this bill when it reached his desk.
Throughout the process author Assemblymember Das Williams and co-authors Senators Loni Hancock and Lois Wolk demonstrated leadership and commitment to protecting libraries and the public.
Although this legislation is limited to California, other states are now considering drafting similar legislation and the American Library Association has created a checklist for communities considering library privatization ALAKeepingPublicLibrariesPublic.FINAL.06.11.pdf .
A special thank you to the SEIU State Council, California Labor Fed, LA County Fed, SEIU Locals 521 and 1021, CSEA, AFSCME, CTA, OCEA, CNA, Laborers International, California Professional Firefighters and public library supporters from Santa Clarita, Ventura and Camarillo for helping us with this bill.