Missouri Minute: Smithfield seeks leniency on virus guidelines; Wash U furloughs 500 workers

Good morning, MBA readers,

Another union is calling on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to do more to address a critical shortage of protective gear for essential workers and those who are now being asked to return to work. This time, a group that represents state workers says “we need to get real” about protecting public employees. The appeal comes at a time of heightened awareness of labor relations in the state, as pork producer Smithfield Foods, contending that it is doing its best to provide protection to its workers, is asking a Missouri judge for flexibility when it comes to compliance with coronavirus workplace guidelines. Plus, this week’s Speaking Startup podcast looks at a winemaking and tourism hotspot in Missouri to see how businesses are coping as tourist traffic dries up.

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Speaking Startup: The pandemic’s toll on a tourism town
In the Missouri river town of Hermann, winemaking is big business. So is the tourism surrounding that wine industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated tourism, presenting a new — and potentially existential — threat for fledgling wineries looking to carve out their niche. On this week’s podcast, we check in with Hermann’s winemakers to get a sense of how they are faring.

Stay alert

KC metro sees biggest single-day surge in COVID-19 cases
Days before most of the state reopens for business next week, the Kansas City metro reported 104 new coronavirus cases Thursday, marking the area’s largest daily surge. Statewide, confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 7,500. (Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Smithfield Foods tells judge it needs leniency on virus guidelines
The world’s largest pork producer told a Missouri judge Thursday that it is working to comply with guidance designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but that it requires flexibility as many of its employees work side by side in meat processing plants. The judge is considering whether to compel Smithfield into compliance after an anonymous employee sued, alleging unsafe working conditions at a plant in northern Missouri. (Associated Press)

Stifel profit drops as revenue climbs amid tumultuous first quarter
The St. Louis-based investment bank on Thursday reported $81.7 million in net income available to common shareholders on net revenue of $913 million, compared to $96.9 million of net income on net revenue of about $770 million a year earlier. Stifel leadership attributed the variance to both shocks in the industry and the diversity of the company’s portfolio. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Wash U furloughs 500 workers
Facing a $25 million loss on room and board costs, Washington University in St. Louis is furloughing about 11% of its main campus’ roughly 4,440 workers. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MU med school announces temporary pay cuts, weeklong furloughs
The University of Missouri School of Medicine expects to save over $9 million by cutting the salaries of some workers and furloughing others. Faculty will take a mandatory 10% salary cut for three months starting in May, and staff members will be asked to either take a pay cut or one week of unpaid furlough. (Columbia Missourian)

Defiant mayor reverses early reopening plan
Eureka Mayor Sean Flower has reversed his previous plan to reopen businesses on Monday, instead adhering to St. Louis County’s stay-at-home order that runs until May 15. Flower previously said that his business community could not remain shuttered any longer and planned to defy the county’s order. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Plan said to target June return for MLB
Major League Baseball is reportedly mulling a plan that would open its regular season around late June and have teams play in their own stadiums without any fans, according to a USA Today report citing anonymous baseball executives. The plan would likely allow for a season of about 100 to 110 games and involve realigned divisions to reduce travel. (USA Today)

Incentives for $43 million sports complex clear KC Council
The Kansas City Council voted 9-3 on Thursday to issue $25 million in special obligation bonds next spring toward a $43 million tournament-quality soccer complex. The facility would house 12 full-sized multi-sport fields, three concession stands and a 15,000-square-foot field house. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Columbia schools to bring back staff in ‘tiered stages’
Columbia Public School District will begin to bring back school employees serving “immediate and essential needs,” including custodial, nutrition and IT staff, starting Monday. Not every employee from each department will return at once, and the schools have ordered face masks and gloves for those who are required to return to work. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Charles County shopping center sells for $4 million
The Crossroads Center, a 40,000-square-foot retail center in O’Fallon, has sold to a private investor in a deal that closed in mid-April despite uncertainties related to the pandemic. The $4 million price tag is on par with that of similar properties in recent years. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Local funds award more than $1 million in loans to small businesses
The KC COVID-19 Small Business Relief Loan Fund said Wednesday it has awarded more than $1 million in loans to local small businesses. Arch Grants has awarded 16 grants totaling $141,000 through a relief fund it set up to support St. Louis startups that have gone through its program. (Kansas City Business Journal, St. Louis Business Journal)

Judge fines T.E.H. Realty $1,000 a day
The landlord is being held in civil contempt and fined $1,000 a day by a Jackson County judge after an affiliate of T.E.H. ignored court orders to provide information on former tenants. T.E.H. owns apartment complexes in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas and has been the target of multiple complaints about the facilities’ dilapidated conditions. (KCUR)

Mother’s Brewing cancels beer festival
The Springfield brewery has called off its 10th annual Mother’s Day Festival, which usually takes place outdoors on the brewery’s lawn, attracting hundreds of people. Mother’s also announced this week that it is recalling its new Ready Hard Seltzer drink due to a quality issue related to the taste of the product. (Springfield News-Leader)

Say that again

“We need to get real. It’s time that this governor starts protecting state employees.”

That’s Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, which represents government workers in several states, including Missouri. The union leaders called on Gov. Mike Parson this week to do more to protect essential workers and to support those working from home, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Homan’s comment comes as Missouri prepares to reopen its economy starting Monday despite lingering concerns over the novel coronavirus. The state warns that workers cannot claim unemployment benefits if they opt not to return to work over health concerns, and the state even established a portal for employers to report workers who “refuse to return to work.” Homan contends that the policy puts workers without adequate access to protective equipment at risk of becoming exposed to the virus.

Go figure


That’s the number of Missourians who have filed initial unemployment claims over the last six weeks, according to the state labor department. Nearly 55,000 Missourians filed for unemployment for the week ended April 25 as effects of the coronavirus continue to decimate jobs in the state. Last week’s total marked a decrease of about 8%, from the week prior and a decline of nearly 49% from the state’s highest weekly total — more than 104,000 in the final week of March. Nationally, more than 30 million people have filed for unemployment in that six-week span.

Hello, my name is

Julie Stackhouse

This former executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has joined the board of Neocova, a fast-growing local financial technology startup, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Stackhouse, who retired from her old post in February, served as executive vice president and managing officer of supervision, credit, community development and learning innovation at the St. Louis Fed. Now, she will serve on the board of a 4-year-old company offering artificial intelligence and other cloud software to financial institutions.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning. Have a good weekend.


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