For the first time since the strike began on June 25, Lori Wightman, unit chair of CUPE 2974, will speak at the Essex County council meeting tonight, Wednesday, October 19. Wightman will be urging the elected members of council to respect democracy and listen to their constituents, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing the 58 striking library workers.

“The residents of Essex County want their libraries opened – they want their elected council members to show leadership and find a fair resolution to end this strike,” said Lori Wightman, spokesperson for CUPE 2974. “The community has rallied around us, supported our strike and e-mailed, called, and petitioned their mayors and councillors all through the strike. They have one simple message – open our libraries.”

Since the strike began, over 4,600 residents petitioned Essex County, almost 1,000 e-mails were sent out to mayors and councillors, and recently, more than 4,000 called their elected representatives – all wanting to show support for the strikers and asking their mayors and councillors to move off their sick time demands so this strike could end.

The strike was caused by a directive from Essex council to the Essex Library Board forcing the library board and management to seek a sick time change that the county needed for their own workers. Since the strike began, CUPE 2974 offered 10 different ‘moves’ to find a resolution to end the strike, but the library board did not budge on the core sick time change issue, partly due to the directive from Essex council.

“We are urging Essex council to move off their destructive directive that’s caused all 14 libraries to be shut down for almost four months – it is the only way that both parties can resume bargaining to have meaningful talks,” continued Wightman. “Libraries are the heart of the community, where stories and history are stored and shared. How council deals with this strike will also be remembered and stored in the very library that they’ve shut down. Stories will be shared with future generations of how democracy was disrespected by the very same people elected in a democratic vote – especially if council continues to ignore their own constituents.”