COLUMBIA – The Daniel Boone Regional Library (DBRL) has published a statement following its employees’ intent to unionize.
Citing high turnover and unsafe working conditions, DBRL employees announced last week their plan to form the DBRL Workers United. The new union would cover workers at Columbia Public Library, Callaway County Public Library, Holts Summit Public Library and Southern Boone County Public Library.
DBRL said it acknowledges that its workers have a right to unionize.
“Unfortunately, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) supporters have made factually inaccurate, and in some cases, untrue statements about issues at the library’s workplace,” DBRL said in the statement.
DBRL mentioned four aspects to responding to the union’s requests, including COVID-19, compensation, benefits and staffing.
According to the statement, the 2021 turnover rate of DBRL was 16.5%, compared to an overall national turnover rate of 57.3%.
“In fact, we have employees here who have worked quite a number of years. So that was one fact that we wanted to make sure that the public noted that we aren’t experiencing a high turnover rate,” DBRL Executive Director Margaret Conroy said.
The statement also said DBRL management conducted a compensation study in 2021 and compared other libraries in similar size, public institutions and private companies. The study led to a new compensation plan with an average 10% staff wage increase in 2022, DBRL said. One employee said their wage increase was minimal.
“My understanding is that our wages were brought up to the minimum level for our market rate,” Ida Fogle, who has worked as a library associate for 17 years, said in an email. “I received a 7% wage increase, which is $1.21.”
According to DBRL, from 2018 to 2021, there were 2% to 3% pay increases across management and staff.
“We want to make sure that we aren’t lagging behind and did as much as we could do in this current budget year. I would like to add that the total percentage of the library’s operating budget dedicated to supporting staff is 61%. So most of our budget goes for staff salaries and benefits,” Conroy said.
The union also mentioned an “unsafe working environment.”
“Ultimately, our safety concerns are about us having a real voice on all workplace safety policy,” library assistant Bryce Johnsen said. “Whether its COVID, harassment or everyday workplace safety concerns, we want to be able to have a say in the policies that are supposed to protect us at work.”
Conroy said she didn’t understand the specific concerns about an unsafe environment.
“The library worked really hard to keep our workers safe during COVID,” Conroy said.
The library said they had not been asked to directly recognize the union.
“We’ll meet on Thursday for our regular monthly board meeting, but we haven’t discussed it. And frankly, at this point, that’s all I’m comfortable saying on the matter,” Conroy said.
The union said they are looking forward to reaching out to them in the near future.