Editor's note: A name was corrected in this article.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The union representing Columbia Public Library workers reached a tentative agreement Wednesday with library management. The agreement comes after months of bargaining capped off with a final negotiating session that lasted two days.
A person familiar with the agreement said the union could have it ratified within two weeks and it could be in place by year's end. The library board still needs to formally approve the agreement, too.
According to a press release from Daniel Boone Regional Library -- the library system that includes the Columbia library -- the final 2024 budget, which includes the newly approved measures, will be voted on by the DBRL Board of Trustees on Dec. 14.
The release states the "contract increases the library’s cost-share for health insurance and provides staff with guaranteed annual raises of 5%, after placement on a new salary scale based on current labor market analysis and years of experience."
“We have made a lot of excellent changes to the library not only changes to the library but also our management we’re making this a better workplace and this contract is how we are doing it," Rowan Walsh, the Executive Board Member of Daniel Boone Workers United said.
According to the release the union presented a list of 25 demands to the library administration in the fall of 2022, which included demands for increased wages and benefits, safety measures, and policy protections. During contract negotiations, the total list was expanded to 34.
"Management’s responsibility is to make sure that we care for our staff in a fiscally responsible way since we are funded by tax dollars. That takes time. They asked for a lot. We agreed on what we could afford to agree to," Margaret Conroy, DBRL Executive Director, told ABC 17 News.
Welsch, a nine-year veteran at the library says that the economic package that took the longest to figure out during negotiations.
“We are no longer constantly chasing the minimum wage but we are paying people closer to what they are worth," Welsch said. "We are hoping this will increase retention, make employees feel more valued and hopefully they can continue to afford to work here."
"The wage proposal that we have agreed on would give increases to all the workers. It also acknowledges tenure and years of service at the library. We have fallen behind in some areas so this would correct that," Conroy added.
The library says 165 people will be affected by this agreement which includes everyone but but management. Both parties are hopeful that they can finally move forward
"It has been difficult. The staff who unionized lobbied hard," Conroy said "There has been tension. I’m hopeful that moving forward the tension will stop and we can get back to being the wonderful staff that we are."
Workers and the library had been at odds over protection for workers, workers wanting to be told if the library was planning to sell or merge and salaries. Under the agreement, workers will receive requested pay raises based on seniority and improved health and safety benefits, a union member said.
Union members protested at a board meeting earlier this month amid ongoing disagreements with management.
"The community support that we have gotten has been so important we are so grateful for it. We have a fantastic community here in Boone and Callaway counties," Welsch said. "We are just so glad that people love the library."