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Daniel Boone Regional Library workers vote to form first public library union in Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Daniel Boone Regional Library (DBRL) workers approved a proposal to unionize.

Unofficial results from the Missouri State Board of Mediation show of the 165 eligible voters, 101 workers voted for and 55 others voted against the proposal to unionize under the name 'DBRLWorkersUnited.' The vote to unionize was held from Wednesday through Saturday.

The Missouri State Board of Mediation chairman verified and signed the official tally shortly after the unofficial results were released. Two votes were thrown out, but it did not change the election's outcome.

There is a 10-day objection period, but Todd Smith, chairman of the State Board of Mediation, said he doesn't anticipate anyone objecting to the results.

"There can be objections raised, but in my experience in the last five years, we haven't ever had a race to that to the election is set aside or anything," Smith said.

The election was conducted anonymously online.

"We sent out a link to the voting site," Smith said. "Each individual had a unique 16-digit number that they would have to type in and vote. Very good participation, congratulations to both parties that they had such a good turnout."

Some DBRL employees, calling themselves DBRL Workers United, made an announcement about plans to unionize in February. DBRL Workers United cites several reasons for wanting to form a union including fair pay, safety, and transparency about decisions from management.

Many workers pushing to unionize around the country have cited the pandemic as snowballing some issues for employees including high staff turnover, pay, and safety conditions. One employee, Ida Fogle, said she didn't see any action after bringing concerns to her managers.

"They didn't really have the power to make any kind of systemic change," Fogle said. "So I saw that we needed to join our voices together as a unified group and have a seat at the table."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the DBRL Workers United, stated it also wants to address health care and benefits for workers.

"I could afford to pay my own premium if I went to the library plan, but to put even a single family member on the premiums would have cost literally more than I was bringing in," Fogle said.

DBRL Executive Director Margaret Conroy told ABC 17 News the February announcement caught her off guard. 

"I feel that our relationship is strong," Conroy said. "I have heard the employees make comments contrary to the media. I don't understand it."

The union will not represent library supervisors, managers or confidential employees. Those workers weren't eligible to vote.

DBRL plans to negotiate a contract with the union. A timeline for negotiations isn't immediately available.

"The library's employees are a very important part of the services we provide our community and job satisfaction has always been important to us," Conroy said. "We are looking forward to learning more about their specific concerns through the bargaining process."

DBRL has countered some of the claims made by DBRL Workers United about their workplace environment and pay. DBRL conducted a compensation study in 2021 and improved wages in 2022, according to the library. The library says it gave on average a 10% raise to staff and a 6% raise to managers this year.

The library also states the system had a 16.5% turnover rate in 2021 compared to the U.S. turnover rate of 57.3% nationally.

The DBRL System will be the first library staff to unionize in Missouri successfully.

DBRL operates libraries in Ashland, Columbia, Fulton, and Holts Summit.

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.

Author Profile Photo

Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

Joushua Blount

Joushua Blount hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in media communications from the University of Toledo. He also has a master’s degree from the University Of Alabama. Roll Tide!

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