Library Volunteers

A recent question to The Ethicist read as follows:

“Community members have responded to our town’s tight budget by volunteering at the library, so much so that the library laid off several long-term full-time employees, people who are our friends and neighbors. Having fewer municipal employees means a slight reduction in property taxes for everyone, but it harms those left jobless. Should town residents consider that before volunteering?”

My first thought was, Doesn’t this library have a union? Obviously not! If they did, they never would have fired paid bargaining unit employees in favor of free volunteers. Or if they did, they’d really be in for a fight from the union reps!

The Ethicist‘s response included nothing in regards to unions, whatsoever. I found that odd. All the libraries I have ever have ever worked in or around (including as a volunteer) are unionized. Perhaps that is not the case everywhere. Perhaps we are just particularly litigious in Ohio.

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