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Daniel Boone Regional Library employees take part in union-organized activities; say voices silenced for way too long


Last Friday, Daniel Boone Regional Library's (DBRL) management of Board and Trustees discovered that many employees and representatives of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) took part in union-organized activities.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, everyone has the right to form, join, or assist a union. However, DBRL announced in a public statement that AFSCME had made factually inaccurate and untrue statements about issues within the library workforce.

Some of the issues highlighted, are compensation, COVID, and work benefits.

Bryce Johnson who worked as a library assistant at the Columbia Public Library for a year now says his colleagues started talking amongst each other about the lack of communication within the department. Johnson feels that so much of the library is about communication and he started talking to his coworkers about a vision for the library and he found that vision wasn't coming to fruition.

"The more we talked to each other, the more we saw discrepancies on our vision for the library, and we really wanted to form a collective voice. That we can voice our opinions and voice the problems when they arise," said Johnson.

The group wants to emphasize that they enjoy working at the Columbia Public Library but they feel like their voices have been silenced.

"We love our library, and we just want it to live up to the potential that we know it can. If our voices could just be heard as part of the process," said, Wendy Rigby, a library assistant lead for 17 and a half years.

However, DBRL feels that they've done its best in making sure the needs of its employees are meant. According to DBRL's statement, since the start of the pandemic, the library had made the safety of its employees a priority. DBRL has followed CDC guidelines, has offered and extended paid leave, and continues encouraging masking and social distancing.

"We recognize the importance and value in supporting our staff who are responsible for providing superior customer service to the general public we serve in Boone in Callaway Counties," said Margaret Conroy executive director of Danial Boone Library. "We support them in a number of ways. The staff, like the general public, have differing opinions on a number of topics like how to handle COVID. We know that not all of our management decisions will please everyone, but we strive to work as a team".

To address some of the concerns and issues the library held a board meeting this evening. Many employees addressed their concerns but library associate Amy Bruce did not feel the same as other members.

"I feel like the proper channels are in place within the union... if we just come together and I feel like we can move forward in a positive way", Bruce said.

Another topic the DBRL discussed in its statement was compensation. DBRL states that they implemented across the board pay increases in 2020. After the team conducted a pay study and raised workers' pay based on a study done in 2017 they found that the average increase for staff was 10 percent but the union disagrees.

"They made it sound like everyone got a fair, 10 percent across the board raise but that simply is not true. There are many people that didn't get that much. Maybe they averaged but it isn't true for many people," Rigby said.

The group says before DBRL conducted a compensation study they were never asked if the wages impacted the team, and again the 10 percent was not given out to everyone.

"It's hard to work at a place you love so much and know that you'll never get any opportunity to advance," Johnson said.

The group has also gotten much support from the community, such as faith leaders, other local unions, former employees, politicians, and community leaders. Johnson says they've also received support from hundreds of patrons that they see every day.

AFSCME is also fighting for better benefits, something DBRL says has already been addressed. This includes increased paid time off and an additional closed holiday. The department also states that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, DBRL’s turnover rate compared to other state and local governments across the U.S. is below the average or close to average.

"My job and that of the DBRL Board of Trustees is to provide access to information to everyone in our service area, as well as to prudently and effectively use the tax dollars that pay for library services. Sometimes, we must balance the needs of the community and the needs of the staff to provide a comfortable environment to read, explore and learn,” said Conroy,".

For now, it seems like both parties have separate views about the situation. A board meeting will be held today that may discuss the current issues within the library.

"Everyone wants to be heard, and we haven't been heard in a long time. I think that if the board voluntarily recognizes us that'll be a really big first step towards having a really good relationship that we can grow from", Johnson said.

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Kennedy Miller


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