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Copley library workers are steamed, and not just because of the heat and humidity, although that's giving some headaches and nausea

Large fans that were delivered to public areas of the BPL's main library in Copley Square this morning are too little too late for workers - especially those in back offices who didn't get any fans - who have been falling faint and developing nausea over more than a week without air conditioning, the unions that represent them say.

In a joint statement today, AFSCME Local 1526 and MLSA Local 4928 chronicle the problems since the air conditioning was shut last week:

The buildings remained open for full staffing and elevated temperatures and humidity from June 1 - 5, 2024. Staff and patrons continued to experience workplace-related heat illnesses and reactions during this time and only received platitudes from Senior Leadership. We’ve heard reports of employees being unable to eat lunch due to heat-induced nausea. Employees are developing increasingly bad headaches as temperatures in the building rise through the day. Employees with chronic illnesses share worries the heat will cause a flare-up, forcing them to take sick time and miss out on personal events.

The unions say Library Chief of Staff Sarah Zaphiris e-mailed workers on May 20 that the AC would be turned off soon due to reconstruction of a loading dock - and that it was expected to be finished by the first week in June.

Only a few days after that email, on Friday, May 24, staff worked in an increasingly hot building all day, and then the Boylston Street building closed for the remainder of the day due to the heat. By then, the majority of spaces in the building were at 86 degrees or more. Staff were given the option to find another location to work or use paid time off (PTO) and go home. Those whose duties could not be done remotely were excused for the day. Conflicting messaging led to many staff members working from home for the rest of the day, only to find out that BPL required them to use their PTO for that time. "Work at an alternative location" did not clearly state that Senior Leadership expected staff to work from a branch, not their homes.

Staff who preferred to work from a branch location had to navigate finding a branch without support or assistance from Senior Leadership. For some, working at another location is simply not possible, as their skillset and work do not easily transfer to being done at a branch. ...

On Tuesday, May 28, 2024, an announcement was sent out at 8:50 AM that the Boylston Building was too hot to open. Many staff leave their house well before the beginning of their shift and had already made their way to Copley Square when they received this information. That same day, the McKim building closed at 5 PM. Staff who worked the evening shift were told they could "work from a cooler location" or use PTO. With the entire building now closed, there weren’t any cooler spaces in Central. Only a few branches remain open past 6:00 PM on Tuesdays resulting in staff having to unfairly use PTO for the rest of their scheduled shift.

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Comments

That's why we attend climate summits. To solve this problem once and for all.

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Voting closed 41

Name one city you think is better than Boston.

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I can even think of some inside 128.

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We'd all like to know what city Boston should be emulating.

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MBTA passengers at any underground station nod heads in unison, "Oh, you're a bit warm are you?"

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The MBTA doesn't expect passengers to wait for hours on an underground platform; most people will give up a lot sooner than that, even if there are no shuttle buses.

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“All week.” Today and Wed were hot, the rest of the week has been very comfortable.

I haven’t turn my AC at all this week, still alive and haven’t not fainted.

BPL should be providing an acceptable working environment, but lets drop the dramatic bs. These are librarians, manual trade unions have been outside WORKING all week.

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But I'm curious where I can see this giant concrete box with the two-story-tall slabs of plate glass that you live in.

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Of area kids in school this week faint?

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Most schools have windows that open.

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Maybe a majority of BPS school buildings overall have windows that open, but far too many don't.

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There was an interesting article in WaPo recently about areas where climate change is causing problems because high heat has entered the scene during increasing amounts of the school year in places where schools don't have AC - yet.

The Boston area is part of that.

The state is very likely to step in soon to reduce that increasing hazard to faculty, staff, and students. Establishing temperature maximum/cooling standards for public buildings is one of the state agency action items for the latest Resilient Massachusetts Climate Plan.

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Or are you just seeing the word "union" and masturbating?

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does your house also have hundreds of people coming and going all day long, children running about, and was it also designed not to have a way to open any of the windows but definitely let in all the sunlight?

You also seem to imply two things 1) that BPL is only full of librarians (plenty of other staff make BPL services possible) and 2) that somehow being a librarian is not "work". Care to elaborate?

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Staff have been forced to work in these conditions for two weeks.

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And librarians have been working indoors all week? Work is work, and management for librarians AND construction workers should support their staff and have a plan for when things like this happen. 86 degrees and 70% humidity is TERRIBLE for everyone alike when there's not even a breeze and computers running in every room

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... are driving up our death rates for heat.

Go to Florida where you can't even talk about such important health issues.

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I work in the children’s room We can not open windows temperatures have hovered over 82 degrees in this room It has been very oppressive and I am worried about the air. It has been a difficult week

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Why didn't they do the work in the winter?

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To rebuild a loading dock? No. What they should have done is included temporary portable AC Units. They are easily rented or purchased from multiple companies in the area. This is poor management of the construction project.

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Portable ones are very noisy, since they move the machinery inside - and they still need to connect to exhaust venting somehow.

The better question would be Why couldn't the renovation work be conducted at night time, when the library isn't open and office workers wouldn't be impacted?

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Because in a building that size and age that uses steam you don't just flip a switch to turn AC off and on. It's a major thing.

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Its green and when its night time, its double time and a half.

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Noise can be worked around. And they're not as loud as you'd think (we used them on a couple of my projects back in 2018-ish). Also, people tend to appreciate the temps over the noise. Further, as someone else said, they are not window units, they're meant to be stationed in a space that doesn't have a functioning HVAC system. You don't need operable windows to make them work properly.

And as a different someone else said, night time is more costly. And increases safety risk for the contractors (June is National Safety Month according to the National Safety Council). Winter or summer doesn't matter, they would have needed to supply temp heat in the winter. And winter may not work due to the type of work they are performing (e.g. concrete work can't happen below certain temps).

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Okay, to clarify a couple of points...

Was NOT talking about window units, even "portable" window units. Those would be fine, if you had spaces to install enough of them where they are needed.
Also, if you had spaces to install them, that would mean you had windows that open.

I was talking about the portable style that you roll in and out.
They are very noisy, because you have the motor inside your space now, instead of hanging outside a window.
As I said, they also have to be connected to your building ventilation.

I wasn't arguing winter versus summer for choosing to do the work - that was someone else.

I was arguing time of day. I know overtime can cost. I also know that building owner/operators frequently have work - cleaners, overhauls, renovations... - in at night and over weekends because it minimizes disruptions to regular operations. It might cost more in the simple price, yes, but cost-effectiveness is a consideration.

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I'm surprised that the union grievance didn't mention this, because not having circulating air is a known risk factor for viral transmission.

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Mold grows when ventilation is inadequate and moisture builds up. Lack of ventilation also concentrates indoor air pollutants, including mold spores.

Libraries have a lot of places for mold to grow.

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Getting high level AC plumbing and electricians on emergency call is like waiting in the emergency room til u finally get taken to s specialist on a weekend. Whose jurisdiction is the BPL Copley branch?

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BPL is becoming elitist, dumping on their staff with dismissive, punitive approaches to real human suffering. I never thought I would see that. Libraries should stand as the antidote to a growing "Let them eat cake" attitude. And if you want to know more about the fate of the Queen of France prior to the French Revolution, ask a librarian!

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David Leonard was a political appointee from Walsh. I remember him when he was the IT director for a local AIDS support non-profit. Never thought highly of him then nor now.

If the buck stops anywhere it is at his desk. If he didn't care enough making sure this situation didn't turn into a SNAFU then why expect any other administrators to care?

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David Leonard is a very long time friend of mine (30 years). Knowing him there is probably a reason for this.

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What is the connection between a landing docking - something that I assume has an outdoor component for vehicle to pull into and the rest of the building?

As for the comments about unions I have seen unions that push beyond credibility or good sense. The MFA guard's union current contract allows them to put boxes for tips at the coat check room. A tip for just hanging a coat? Absurd and really pretty darn greedy.

Or was this the MFA's way of avoiding paying a higher salary to guards? Other questions that I ponder is how do guards who don't work in the coat room get tips? On the other hand the MFA's guard are pretty ineffective. If they are not yammering on a cell phone in a gallery then they are blithely ignoring visitors who are yammering on cells in galleries.

Actually the entire place is going downhill. Vapid shows (the hullabaloo over Hallyu has the gravitas of a Hula Hoop) and you can't go anywhere without noise from audio-video devices. I remember when the talkies of museum exhibits were mainly for kids in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and similar places. Exhibits perfect for kids with short attention spans and no interest in actually studying art.

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Is the HVAC system on the fritz at the MFA as well?

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covering what WBZ and WCVB refuse to even acknowledge. Thanks you, Adam.

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