Multnomah County Library Dials Back Previously Announced Plan to Lay Off 128 Employees

No union-represented library employees will lose their jobs this month.

In July, Multnomah County Library director Vailey Oehlke announced a plan to reduce staffing by 128 positions as a result of the pandemic that forced library closures.

The layoffs caused an outcry from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 88, however. The layoffs would have disproportionately hit employees of color because under the union contract, the last employees hired would be the first laid off and the library has made strides in diversifying its workforce.

But today Oehlke said the number of layoffs would shrink dramatically, to 26—and all of those 26 would be offered other jobs within the county's workforce.

When she initially announced the layoffs July 28, Oehlke said she was reducing the library's workforce by 13% to "honor its obligation to the public that funds the library by acting as a thoughtful and transparent steward of public resources."

That may have been a nod to the library's November ballot measure, which seeks $385 million for capital improvements to the system.

Oehlke's original announcement said layoffs would go into effect Aug. 30, but AFSCME negotiated an extension to Sept. 30.

In the meantime, the union and management worked to find ways to preserve some jobs, offered retirement incentives to some employees, and created some new positions that allow workers to continue serving the community during the pandemic.

"We heard concerns from community members after announcing potential layoffs early in the summer," Oehlke said. "We took these concerns to heart. Thanks to creative thinking by library staff, we identified new and unique services the community needs during this pandemic."