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Top Missouri Labor Stories of 2023

Stephen Webber
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11. Missouri Cannabis Workers Unionizing 

In 2022 Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marajuana; and in 2023 unions got to work organizing the dispensaries. Teamsters in Kansas City.  UFCW in mid-Missouri (with a unanimous vote!) and in St. Louis.  Early unionzing means that as this new workforce grows it will grow with better pay, benefits and a voice on the job.  Missouri voters, who supported both legal cannabis and rejected so-called right to work, have to be pleased.  

10. Clay County Passes Local Labor Standards 

With an anti-labor legislature and gridlock too common in Washington, sometimes the best way to improve the lives of our members is to act locally.  That's what the Laborers did when they successfully passed a responsible bidder ordinance in one of the fastest growing counties in the State.  Ensuring bidders on public projects meet minimum labor standards is a responsible use of taxpayer money and good for working families! 

9. High Union Popularity

We love unions.  We know a union job is the best way to a safe, rewarding, stable career.  And it turns out most other people think that as well! In 2023 polls constantly showed across the board support for unions in the high 60’s and low 70’s, with support for named labor struggles (i.e do you support the UAW or the auto companies) pushing into the mid-70%’s! Getting 3 out of 4 Americans to support anything is hard; but not if you're a labor union!


8. Federal PLA’s

It’s no secret that Joe Biden has been the most pro-union President in history.  He recently took another step toward cementing that legacy in 2023 when he issued an executive order requiring all federal construction projects over 35 million to utilize Project Labor Agreements (PLA).  By securing a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement federal construction projects will be fair, efficient and predictable for union workers, contractors AND taxpayers. 

7. Missouri Gets A Unionized Library

Missouri started the year with no unionized libraries.  That changed in May when Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United (AFSCME) won their union election. The workers held a grinding series of bargaining sessions, which just culminated in their first contract at the end of December! Congrats to DBRL, and we look forward to more of this in 2024!

6. State Employee Pay Raises

Everyone knows Missouri’s state employees are underpaid.  For years study after study has shown that our public employees are close to the bottom in compensation.  2023 saw a step in the right direction with state employees receiving an across the board 8.7% COLA and some overnight workers receiving an additional $2 an hour bump.  It’s not the end of the road, but it's a big improvement- due to the hard work of Missoui’s public sector unions!

5. Federal Infrastructure Money Flowing

Over the last several years we celebrated unions' roles in delivering the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, but in 2023 the money started to flow.  Over 400 Billion in federal dollars to more than 40,000 projects, which has unlocked an additional 600 Billion in private investment.  So far!  While roads are being built, water projects are underway, fiber is being upgraded, lead pipes are being replaced, all this is just the beginning. We’re going to celebrating the union jobs created by this legislation for a loooong time.  Which also leads to #4…..

4. Historically Low Unemployment 

Union members are, by definition, workers! Work is how we put food on our table, provide for our families and build the life we want to live. And 2023 saw plenty of opportunities to work.  In February the national unemployment rate hit 3.4%, the lowest level in 54 years! And in Missouri we did even better, hitting 2.5% this summer! For years we have been advocating for investing in infrastructure, paying hire wages and supporting the middle class; all that work is paying off! 

3. Missouri Works Initiative Expands Services 

For years now the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative has been working to be a comprehensive resource for worker wellness, and focused on increasing diversity in the construction trades.  That success continued this year with MWI helping 125 Missourians launch their careers in the construction industry. And Missouri Works is growing! MWI expanded its workforce development programs to serve more industries in the labor umbrella, including healthcare worker safety training, and laid the groundwork for more expansion in advanced manufacturing and broadband. 

2. UAW Stand-Up Strike Starts in Missouri

When the UAW was kicking off their Stand Up strike they strategically picked 3 locations to commence the battle.  And one of those three was Missouri.  For 46 days UAW members held the line at the Wentzville GM plant. When it was over the UAW had hammered out a new CBA with the Big 3, delivering a 25% pay increase over the 4.5 year contract and dramatically weakening the two-tier system that hurts newer workers.  Their win improved the quality of life for 150,000 UAW members covered by Big 3 contracts.


President Hummel & Secretary-Treasurer Berry join the UAW picket line

  1. No Bad Labor Bills!

We never take anything for granted in the Missouri legislature.  There are plenty of legislators who want to push a corporate agenda, and things can go sideways at any time.  But they didn’t in 2023.  No right to work.  No Paycheck Deception.  No cuts to unemployment insurance or the minimum wage.  No dismantling of the initiative petition process.  Wins no one thought we were capable of with our numbers, but that we achieved through hard work and sticking together.  


2023 was a great year for Missouri labor! 2024 will have challenges, some we know and some we cannot yet anticipate.  But I know that whatever they are, Missouri's unions will stick together! And next year, with all of our work, we’ll be celebrating a 2024 that was just as successful as our 2023.  


Happy New Year!


Jake Hummel (IBEW)

President, Missouri AFL-CIO