Local union protests at Columbia City Hall; demands higher wages
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
LiUNA Local 955 members and Missouri Jobs with Justice held a rally on Monday in protest of pending cuts to transit services and are demanding emergency wage increases.
The protest started at 5 p.m. Monday in front of Columbia City Hall. Roughly 50 union members and allies attended the rally for a little less than an hour after the cold weather made them wrap up early, but members said they would be back.
"We have not hired a new mechanic in almost three years," Scott Johnson, union steward and Columbia Mechanic, said in a news release. "We can't keep up with maintaining City vehicles. This is putting our fellow members in danger on the road and could put the public at risk. This staffing crisis is costing taxpayers and is a threat to public safety."
LiUNA Local 955 is a union of public employees and construction laborers. Union representative Andrew Hutchinson said they are demanding a 10% increase in wages across the board before bargaining begins.
"Police officers received a 7% increase to starting pay last year while the rest of our scales were frozen," Hutchinson said in the news release. "Our members kept this City running during a global pandemic - it is time that the City honored its essential workers and treated them with dignity."
Hutchinson added the City has been "dragging its feet on wage increases."
"These are the folks who pick up your trash, keep the streets clean, whether that's plowing snow, or filling potholes, and drive our city buses," Hutchinson said at the protest. "Basically every service maintenance department at the city, other than water and like, we're showing up today."
"Our bus drivers are working mandatory overtime," Hutchinson said. "They're (the City) telling the new hires, you're stating at $15.80, you're going to work over 50 hours a week, every single week."
Union members are also frustrated with the City's decision to cut bus routes, "which not only hurts our members in the amount of house they get to work, it hurts the residents who rely on city buses to get to work, who are also members who work at Mizzou," Hutchinson said.
"The goal was to let everybody know about the conditions, lack of paid city workers, trash workers and mechanics, just wanting to get more pay and just be appreciated," laborer Glenn Robertson said.
Missouri Jobs with Justice is a statewide grassroots coalition of individuals and faith, labor, student, and community groups building transformative power for social, racial, and economic justice.
City spokesperson Sydney Olson told ABC 17 News in an email that the city allegedly gave multiple raises to "employees represented by Laborers’ Local 955" since April 2021 that exceed 12% (2.1% in April 2021, 3% in September 2021, 3% in May 2022, 4% in September 2022). The city did not say how many employees received the raises.