Birmingham Public Library employees protest furloughs

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 7:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - About two dozen of the more than 150 Birmingham Public Library workers furloughed amid a city financial shortfall gathered outside Birmingham City Hall Tuesday morning hoping their voices would be heard by council members.

158 full and part-time Birmingham Public Library workers will be furloughed indefinitely on Friday, so this morning’s protest was a ‘Hail Mary’ to get city leaders to have a change of heart.

“Insufficient! Inefficient! Ineffective! Inept! Unskilled!” Those were the chants from protest organizers Tuesday morning.

Armed with signs, a microphone, and a speaker, the protesters gathered peacefully, taking turns at the mic to voice concerns.

“And we are calling for the city council to pass a budget that includes the people’s priorities, that protects the employees of city hall, that protects or public library system, and that will divest from our militarized police system,” said Executive Director of Sweet Alabama, Rob Burton.

About 75% of the Birmingham Public Library’s full and part-time library workers will be out of work Friday due to a shortfall of $63 million, a problem the city blames on the COVID-19 pandemic.

BPL employees said they only make up about 3% of the city’s annual budget, but feel the budget shortfall is being made up on their backs.

“We’re not picking on the library system,” said Birmingham Mayor, Randall Woodfin. “All of our recreational, cultural, arts departments have received some form of furloughs because either their services have stopped completely, or their services have been…I guess revised in a limited capacity."

Mayor Woodfin said the curbside and online services at area libraries will continue despite the furloughs.

The impacted employees received a letter about the furloughs, saying in part they were not to report to work after September 25, until normal library operations can resume.

Those employees will receive their final paychecks on October 9.

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