Socialists must stand in solidarity with library staff at BU

Updated: Jul 6

On December 17th of last year, the Daily Free Press (FreeP) published an article titled “BU library staff denied full workplace accommodations for Spring.” According to interviews with an anonymous library employee as well as other staff and faculty at BU quoted in the article, BU Libraries, under the direction of University Librarian K. Matthew Dames, has refused to renew workplace adjustments from the fall semester for the spring for library staff who themselves are in CDC high-risk categories for COVID-19 or have family members in those categories.

After the FreeP article was published, two members of our YDSA chapter, myself and our current president, Anthony Buono, spoke with representatives of various unions representing staff and faculty at BU, including UAW Local 2324. We learned that library staff would have to either add in-person shifts to their existing responsibilities from last semester or ask for COVID-related leave. This would allow them to take whatever paid leave allotted to them in their contract, at which point they would have to take unpaid leave for the rest of the semester or resign. This is also detailed in the staff support petition.

This is a moral outrage. Withholding paychecks during a pandemic to coerce workers into needless health risks is extremely cruel and dangerous. It is especially so when, as UAW Local 2324’s vice president, Zachary Bos, told the FreeP, “it’s all computer work” that these same staff were able to do remotely last semester. BU Libraries’ decision puts profit above all else, including the safety of the BU community and the Boston community at-large. It is especially egregious due to the fact that the new B.1.1.7 variant, which is much more contagious than the original COVID strain found in Wuhan, is now circulating in Massachusetts, meaning that the risk of catching COVID is greater at BU than it was in the fall.

As students, we know that this latest move from the BU Administration is only one in a pattern of undemocratic decision-making that has been “made from the top and imposed on everybody,” as Professor Star put it. As socialists, we know that this undemocratic process is part and parcel of the capitalist system, and BU being a “not for profit” does not exempt it from this system so long as the administration continues to run this university like a corporation.

We also know that the only way to beat capitalism is through organizing and building collective power. Students share a common interest with BU’s employees in keeping the campus safe and COVID-free. The university is purportedly exercising this cruelty on behalf of the quality of our education and “college experience,” so it is imperative that we show BU that we support the library staff in their demand for safe working conditions. BU’s campus can never be safe until everyone’s safety, not just students’, is taken seriously. And BU will never take its employees' safety seriously unless we students take it seriously in solidarity with the staff at risk.

On February 8th, I will be introducing two resolutions in the Boston University Student Government Senate: one for the Senate to endorse our Free Laundry campaign, and another for all senators to sign on to the staff support petition and boycott in-person library services until all UAW Local 2324 library staff in CDC high-risk categories for COVID or with family in those categories are no longer forced to work in-person this semester. In the event that this petition passes, the COVID-19 University Oversight Committee, through which I am introducing the petition, will issue a press release. I urge you to join us in taking this pledge, sharing the link and accompanying press release with your friends and on social media, and postering with our chapter to get the word out to as much of the BU community as possible. Broad student support is absolutely vital for the library staff to win this demand, so let’s help them obtain it!

Vivian Dai (CAS '24) is from California. They major in classics.

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