The Bloomingtonian

Memnon workers ratify union contract in unanimous vote; Memnon was contracted to digitize Indiana University’s archives when the work was outsourced

May 27, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: Hayden Blankenship, CWA Local 4818, Area Vice-President Memnon Archiving, count ballots after workers at Memnon archiving voted ratify a new union contract last Thursday. The 16 workers at the site, where they are contractors digitizing Indiana University’s archives voted unanimously for the ratification. The unionized Memnon Archiving Division, which was once a subsidiary of Sony, is now owned by ES Broadcast in London, England. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Workers at Memnon, which is contracted with IU to digitize archives, voted to join the CWA union in the fall of 2019. However, negotiating the contract took months as work stopped at the facility due to Coronavirus. The company, once owned by Sony, was recently sold to a new owner.

Finally last week, workers voted unanimously to ratify a new contract, as 16 yes votes were tallied in the lobby of the Innovation Center building on IU’s Bloomington campus. The workers do not work for IU.

CWA Local 4818 President Richard “Ric” Spires, and other union officers, were on hand to oversee the count, which was conducted by Hayden Blankenship, CWA Local 4818, Area Vice-President Memnon Archiving.

The Bloomingtonian reached out to Blankenship for a statement after the vote count, and received this reply:

“We Memnon workers decided to pursue unionization due to unacceptable safety standards, wage rates, and lack of any benefits.

Since our safety concerns needed to be addressed immediately, our first fight after voting to unionize was to clean up the safety issues within the building. We made huge progress on safety before even beginning collective bargaining negotiations for our first contract.

We focused on the safety issues throughout winter of 2019 and early 2020. Then, we were furloughed and Memnon was not operating from March-May 2020, due to Covid.

After we began working again, and sorting through Covid procedures in the workplace, we began bargaining in July 2020 Memnon came to Bloomington and began working with IU in 2015-ish.

We’ve been archiving and digitizing lots of different IU media collections for 6 years now, and this mass-digitization project between Memnon and IU is really the first of its kind.

It’s a project that many people in the archival industry around the world are keeping tabs on. Our labor issues at Memnon are sadly very common within the archival industry, within both private and academic settings, so we hope that our efforts could play a small part in a larger discussion about the inequities and injustices within these workplaces!”

CWA Local 4818 represents workers both in multiple sectors – telecommunications and digital archiving (private) and the support and technical staff at the Bloomington and Northwest campuses of Indiana University (public).

Full disclosure, Toni Arcuri, who is Vice President, Indiana University Unit, CWA local 4818, which represents IU’s “non-exempt” employees, is married to The Bloomingtonian’s Jeremy Hogan.

May 27, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: CWA Local 4818 President Richard “Ric” Spires, left, and Hayden Blankenship, CWA Local 4818, Area Vice-President Memnon Archiving, shake hands after workers at Memnon archiving voted to ratify a new union contract last Thursday. The 16 workers at the site, where they are contractors digitizing Indiana University’s archives voted unanimously for the ratification. The unionized Memnon Archiving Division, which was once a subsidiary of Sony, is now owned by ES Broadcast in London, England. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 27, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: Workers at Memnon archiving voted ratify a new union contract last Thursday. The 16 workers at the site, where they are contractors digitizing Indiana University’s archives voted unanimously for the ratification. The unionized Memnon Archiving Division, which was once a subsidiary of Sony, is now owned by ES Broadcast in London, England. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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