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After board reversal, workers secure first-ever library contract in Missouri

Photo: Kat Cancio/ AFSCME
After board reversal, workers secure first-ever library contract in Missouri
By AFSCME Staff ·
Tags: Momentum Wages

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Reversing itself in the face of a public outcry and pushback from workers, the board of the Daniel Boone Regional Library system has voted to approve a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the workers’ union and management.

That ends a long negotiation process and culminates in the ratification of the first-ever contract for library workers in Missouri.

The board’s approval on Tuesday night follows a tumultuous week in which members of Daniel Boone Library Workers United (DBRLWU) voted unanimously to approve the contract only to have the board reject it and send back a new proposal — despite a tentative agreement (TA) being negotiated at the bargaining table.

The three-year agreement that finally won the board’s approval comes more than a year after the library workers voted overwhelmingly to unionize with AFSCME Council 61.

“This is a huge moment for us,” said Wendy Rigby, president of DBRLWU/AFSCME Local 3311. “It’s been a long negotiation process and it was tough, but this contract shows that all the organizing and activism that went into this fight was worth it. This is a transformative first contract.”

During bargaining Sunday night, DBRLWU members rejected the board’s new proposal of a wage reopener and demanded that board members revote on the TA negotiated at the table. DBRLWU also had the support of many community members who spoke up and told the board to stop delaying the contract further.

“Today’s vote happened because everyone in the community — not just DBRLWU members — made their voices heard,” Rigby said. “That’s the power of solidarity in action.”

This historic agreement will dramatically improve the lives of DBRLWU members, starting with an average raise of 16% right away and an average of 27% in raises across the life of the contract. Other highlights include the creation of a wage scale that acknowledges a worker’s accrued years of service, reduced health insurance costs for most members, improved retirement benefits, and 12 weeks of paid family leave — up from nothing right now.

Additionally, the contract would create a number of on-the-job protections, such as protections against extreme heat and weather, and further solidify DBRLWU members’ voice in the workplace by creating a health and safety committee and a labor management committee.

“This shows the power of collective action,” said Tori Patrick, a DBRLWU executive board member and lead library assistant. “Last year we came together in a union and now we are seeing that all come to fruition. It was a difficult process, but we won all of this because we came together as workers and had each other’s backs.”

This contract sets the stage for additional cultural organizing in Missouri. DBRLWU members hope that this can inspire library workers and other cultural employees across the state and prove that change in their workplace is possible when they come together.

“I want this to be an example for library workers across the state,” Patrick said. “If we come together and fight for what you and the community deserve, we can win.”

AFSCME’s Cultural Workers United campaign fights for fair wages and benefits, job security and a safe workplace free from discrimination for workers at libraries, museums and other cultural institutions nationwide.

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