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Workers at MO library system seek voluntary recognition of their new union

Photo credit: Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United’s Facebook page.
Workers at MO library system seek voluntary recognition of their new union
By Kathleen Cancio ·

After securing majority worker support, employees at Missouri’s Daniel Boone Regional Library are asking the DBRL board to voluntarily recognize their union.

During a board meeting last week, workers shared testimonies affirming the need for a union. Kat Stone Underwood, a librarian at the Columbia Public Library, emphasized the importance of staff having a voice in the decision-making process and ended the night by asking the Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize the workers’ union.

The workers announced on Feb. 4 that they’ve joined together to create Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United through AFSCME Council 61. The new union would represent over 160 workers at Columbia Public Library, Callaway County Public Library, Holts Summit Public Library and Southern Boone County Public Library.

Librarians and support staff are uniting to seek fair pay, accessible services, advancement opportunities and a voice when it comes to decisions that affect the library system. According to a letter of intent signed by 50 DBRL employees, organizing efforts began after a group of workers came together late last year to discuss the challenges of working as front-line staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After realizing that the administration had done little to address staff’s longstanding concerns, workers decided it was time to unionize.

“For too long my co-workers and I have made appeals to the library administration for change and have received only empty promises. We deserve to be listened to, respected and empowered, and we have the power to make that change,” said Tori Patrick, a library assistant.

Stone Underwood said DBRL is a treasured part of the communities it serves because of staff’s hard work.

“The staff that work here deserve to have our needs met so that we can continue to do what we do best, and our union will help make that happen,” she said.

Ida Fogle, a public services library associate, said a union would give the workers a much-needed voice to advocate for themselves.

“I support a union at DBRL because library staff serve our community best when we feel safe and valued in our jobs, knowing our own needs are being met. Every employee deserves a living wage and the opportunity for career advancement,” she said.

DBRL’s workers organized through AFSCME’s Cultural Workers United campaign, which represents employees at the nation’s museums, libraries and zoos. The campaign empowers workers to form unions and negotiate for better pay and working conditions, demand equity and fight for transparency in their workplaces.

To be able to share art and culture with the public, cultural workers deserve respect and dignity at work. Cultural Workers United fights for fair wages and benefits, job security and a safe workplace free from discrimination.

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