CWA Local 6355, the Missouri State Workers Union, began in 1984, when a group of state workers in the Missouri Department of Social Services, tired of low pay and overwhelming caseloads, started organizing so they could have a union that would represent their interests in Jefferson City. Workers decided to join forces with CWA (Communication Workers of America), which had just won an election to represent thousands of state workers in New Jersey and was busy organizing state workers in Texas and across the nation. State workers in Missouri were excited to know that they could join together in a union that was fighting and winning all across the United States!
On July 12th 1984 state workers in the Department of Social Services made a historic decision and voted almost three to one to join with CWA to fight for justice for state workers. DSS workers had their union and it was CWA. Within two years CWA members had already won a 17% pay raise!
In 1989 workers decided it would be more effective to have all state workers under one local and CWA Local 6355, The Missouri State Workers Union was officially born. With all state workers unified under one local state workers again won pay raises, increased staffing and expanded health care coverage. Workers continued to show the state our strength and we continued to organize towards our next major victory.
During the nineties state workers built a strong steward network of hundreds of members that protected worker’s rights on the job in every state office. Our annual Lobby Days grew larger every year as more members became active and we won new political rights, a bill creating caseload standards, saved state holidays and sovereign immunity protection for workers.
By 2000 Missouri’s pay for workers again lagged behind the national average. Taking advantage of the strong membership built up during the nineties, state workers pushed through the largest flat raise in Missouri’s history, a $2,000 pay raise! CWA Local 6355 gained power and influence in Jefferson City as we showed our strength in unity and our ability to set new standards in Missouri.
In 2003, Parkway School District voted to join the local. Prior to moving to CWA Parkway School District was part of the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE). This change in unions was based on the IUE and CWA 2001 national merger. Because of CWA, Parkway support employees have some of the very best working conditions of any school district employees in any Missouri public school.
DSS employees have gone on to score significant gains for state workers through CWA. In 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed a decades long interpretation of the Missouri Constitution that had prohibited public workers from having legally binding contracts through labor unions. In 2010, CWA negotiated the first ever legally binding collective bargaining contract for state employees. Activism by CWA members and a favorable ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court made this possible.
CWA Local 6355’s members in Children’s Division work directly with Missouri’s licensed foster care providers. These relationships led CWA to begin organizing Missouri’s licensed foster care providers for union representation in a truly innovative campaign that began in May of 2008. CWA’s foster care provider organizing has resulted in expanded access for foster care providers to health insurance through legislation signed into law in 2012 and has facilitated enforcement of CD policies for foster care providers through the establishment of a state wide steward network.
Today we face major challenges as we combat a hostile Governor, legislature, and a proposed FSD reorganization. Addressing the chronic crisis of revenue that plagues Missouri and causes our state to consistently rank at the very bottom of the USA for support for public education and public employee pay being chief among them.
But the power of state workers is already beginning to change the tide. State Representatives and Senators have been eager to court state workers favor as they face re-election in 2014. Politicians know what we have shown for years, that together state workers can overcome all obstacles and that we will hold our representatives accountable for the conditions we face at work everyday. State workers know that power concedes nothing without a demand and that is why we will always continue to organize a demand what we deserve: fair pay, decent benefits, rights on the job, and full staffing to allow us to provide high quality services to the public.