COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)
The Daniel Boone Regional Library Board of Trustees approved an agreement with union workers on Tuesday after holding a public vote over Zoom.
The agreement is the same one the DBRL Board returned on Friday. The Board had requested an amendment to the section of the contract regarding wages. The vote officially puts an end to negotiations between the library and workers.
The two sides held a public meeting over Zoom at 4:30 p.m., where the Board listened to statements from union workers and residents before going into a closed session. After the closed session, the Board held a public vote and approved the contract.
The agreement included the "contract increases of 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,” according to the Nov. 29 release from the library.
According to a previous 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.
The library says 165 people will be affected by this agreement.
Before the closed session, some library employees and residents expressed frustration with the Board for requesting amendments to the tentative agreement.
Wendy Rigby, a circulation assistant-lead for the library, wrote in a statement that was read at the meeting before the closed session:
“Monday night, Margaret Conroy asserted that the Board had already rejected the tentative agreement and that asking you to vote on it again would be pointless," Rigby said. "But the fact remains that you as the Board never actually voted on the tentative agreement. Instead, your public vote was on a different, amended version with a new counter-proposal on wages, not what was proposed and agreed to by the bargaining team you appointed. We have a right to see that open, public vote on the original tentative agreement reached by both sides.”
Her frustration was shared by several other library employees who spoke during the meeting.
“This is the third time I have spoken before the board and I think you can tell I would prefer not to,” Library Associate Crystal Buffaloe said during the meeting. “In fact, the last time we came to the Board, what we got back in negotiations seemed like punishment in the form of regressive counters. This is the lowest point I have felt in the entire 14 months of very difficult negotiations.”
Residents also chimed in voicing their frustrations with the Board.
“This is just incredibly frustrating to see,” Tyler Ludwig, of Columbia, said. “Without the people who are actually staffing it, without the people who are helping everyone utilize the resources the library has, the library is nothing.”
The biggest source of contention was that the Board decided to suggest amendments to wages behind closed doors. Other speakers at the meeting included a library official at the University of Missouri.
“You cannot fight for future access to library resources without fighting for the current working conditions of the library staff who select, process, recommend, circulate and reshelve those resources," Vera Elwood, who is a librarian head at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, told the Board. “If you truly want to protect the future of this library and the services you offer the community, you will stop making decisions behind closed doors and you will immediately ratify the contract as it stood on November 29th."
The union representing Columbia Public Library workers had reached an initial agreement on Nov. 29.