As tensions heighten at IndyPL, library workers and the community mobilize to make change

After a summer-long struggle to remove racist CEO Jackie Nytes from her leadership over our library, the library workers union–AFSCME Local 3395–and the Indianapolis Liberation Center are once again organizing to create an anti-racist library in which workers are empowered to manage their own affairs. Dozens of workers and supporters attended the December 13 IndyPL Board Meeting to make their grievances, support, and demands heard.

The galvanizing event is the implementation of a “climate survey” across the library system. The survey was created by the Ice Miller law firm. Not only has Ice Miller never conducted such a survey before, but they were the highest bidder for the job with a price tag of $100,000. According to AFSCME Local 3395 president Michael Torres in an interview for the Recorder, “Michael Torres said IndyPL staff have done many surveys in the past without ever seeing changes. Further, he said the decision to hire Ice Miller reflects an alleged history of Black women being ignored within IndyPL.

As speakers and workers took to the podium, they celebrated their past victory and doubled-down on the future struggle. Indianapolis Liberation Center organizer Connie Thomas lambasted the need to pay tax-payer money to Ice Miller, noting that “we already gave you all of the answers this summer–for free!”

One of the problems identified with the climate improvement process is the relationship of Ice Miller to some of the board members. Library board member Hope Tribble told the board and public that Ice Miller will not be doing any more public updates on the climate improvement study until the results are published early next year in 2022. Library board member and supporter of the union Dr. Khaula Murtadha fired back at Tribble saying that it wasn’t much of an update on the climate improvement process and very problematic that Ice Miller lacks so much transparency with funds provided by the taxpaying working people of Indianapolis.

Party for Socialism and Liberation member Derek Ford noted that surveys are often a form of “death by committee” designed to tire people out and ensure that nothing fundamentally changes. “We believe,” they said, “that the $100,000 would have been better spent to pay for a union-led initiative to redress these problems.”

“Workers are the ones who not only experience these problems, but know the solutions,” they continued.

Former IndyPL worker Stephen Lane, who led the summer struggle, stated, “It is unfortunate that Judge Jose Salinas continues in his role of board president especially after what we witnessed in May when he intentionally and disrespectfully silenced the microphone of a Black woman former employee who was speaking on her experiences of experiencing racism and ableism in the work environment. Salinas should have been dismissed from his position and the board should have elected a more competent and active member to lead the board and our public library institution. Our city deserves better leadership than a yes person who was willing to do the bidding of the Grinch who stole Christmas and it took a lot of effort from the community and staff to push him and other board members to do the right thing and fire the former CEO who emboldened a toxic and racist work environment.”

The struggle is far from over. To add your name to the list of those demanding the resignation of IndyPL Board President Jose Salinas, click here!