Local union protests at Columbia City Hall; demands higher wages
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Members of LiUNA Local 955 and Missouri Jobs with Justice held a rally Monday to protest upcoming cuts to transit services and are calling for emergency wage increases.
The protest began at 5 p.m. Monday outside Columbia City Hall. About 50 union members and allies attended the rally for just under an hour after cold weather ended it earlier, but members said they would be back.
“We haven’t hired a new mechanic in almost three years,” Scott Johnson, Columbia union rep and mechanic, said in a press release. “We cannot keep up with the maintenance of city vehicles. This puts our colleagues on the street at risk and could endanger the public. This workforce crisis is costing the taxpayer and is a threat to public safety.”
LiUNA Local 955 is a union of civil servants and construction workers. Union rep Andrew Hutchinson said they are calling for a 10 percent increase in wages across the board before negotiations begin.
“Police officers received a 7% starting salary increase last year while the rest of our scales were frozen,” Hutchinson said in the press release. “Our members have kept this city running during a global pandemic – it’s time the city honored its key workers and treated them with dignity.”
Hutchinson added that the city “had its feet trembling over wage increases.”
“These are the people who pick up your trash, keep the streets clean whether it’s plowing snow or filling potholes, and drive our city buses,” Hutchinson said at the protest. “Basically, we’re showing up in every service maintenance department in town today except for water and stuff like that.”
“Our bus drivers work mandatory overtime,” Hutchinson said. “They (the city) are telling the new hires, you’re stating that for $15.80 you’re going to work 50+ hours a week.”
Union members are also frustrated by the city’s decision to cut bus routes, “which not only hurts our members in the amount of housing they get to work, but also the residents who rely on city buses to get to work, who are also members work at Mizzou,” said Hutchinson.
“The aim was to let everyone know about the conditions, the lack of paid city workers, garbage workers and mechanics, the desire for more pay and recognition,” said worker Glenn Robertson.
Missouri Jobs with Justice is a grassroots, statewide coalition of individuals and faith, labor, student, and community groups building transformative power for social, racial, and economic justice.
City spokeswoman Sydney Olson told ABC 17 News in an email that the city had allegedly granted multiple pay rises to “employees represented by Laborers’ Local 955” since April 2021, exceeding 12% (Feb .1% in April 2021, 3% in September 2021, 3% in May 2022, 4% in September 2022). The city did not say how many employees will receive the raises.