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Historic union win for workers at one Missouri library system

Workers outside the Columbia, Missouri, branch of the Daniel Boone Regional Library system. (Photo credit: Organizing and Field Services.)
By Kathleen Cancio ·

COLUMBIA, Mo. – More than 160 workers at Missouri’s Daniel Boone Regional Library system made history this week.

They voted overwhelmingly to form a union with AFSCME Council 61, becoming the first active library union in the Show-Me State.

The election was conducted by the Missouri State Board of Mediation between May 18-May 21, when workers voted 101 to 55 in favor of the union. The new bargaining unit will consist of staff, librarians and facility workers throughout Boone and Callaway counties at Columbia Public Library (CPL), Callaway County Public Library, Holts Summit Public Library and Southern Boone County Public Library.

Members of Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United (DBRLWU) announced their intention to unionize back in February. Workers began organizing to build a safe and inclusive workplace and address staff issues such as fair and equitable pay, safety, equitable access to information, materials and buildings, and to have a voice in decisions that affect the library.

Throughout the organizing process, workers received an incredible showing of support from local community and library workers around the country. DBRL staff who testified in support of a union at the library’s monthly Board of Trustees meetings were often greeted by local supporters donning red solidarity clothing for the group’s organizing efforts. A community letter of support posted on DBRLWU’s website has garnered over 700 signatures to date.

“We're overjoyed to have won our election by a nearly 2 to 1 margin,” said Patrick Johnston, a circulation lead assistant at the Columbia branch. “We sent a strong message that workers at the library should have a say in the decisions that affect us.”

Tori Patrick, who also works as a circulation lead assistant in Columbia, said, “Organizing our union has taught me so much about the power of our collective voice. We look forward to getting the chance to work collaboratively with administration to negotiate our first contract."

“I’m so proud of the hard work we’ve put towards our well-deserved win,” said Rowan Walsh, another circulation assistant at Columbia. We’re honored to be the first active union library in Missouri.”

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