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Historic union election looming at Art Institute of Chicago

Workers at the Art Institute and its school, along with AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch and supporters, urged management to recognize their union. (Photo by Paul Goyette)
By AFSCME Council 31 ·

CHICAGO – Employees of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) took a big step toward forming their union earlier this month when they filed representation petitions with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago.

The filing will trigger an election in the coming weeks where employees can vote to officially form their union, Art Institute of Chicago Workers United (AICWU).

“The step we took … is the result of hundreds of conversations between colleagues, sharing our experiences at work and our ideas to make our institutions more equitable and caring in their approach to workers,” said María Cristina Rivera Ramos, a paper conservator at the museum. “We’re excited to vote yes for ourselves, for our co-workers, and for the better museum and school we want to build together.”

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Members of Art Institute of Chicago Workers United filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this month. (Photo courtesy AFSCME Council 31)

“As we prepare for our election, we call on leadership of the museum and the school to remain truly neutral. Forming our union is a decision for us the employees to make – not the employer –and we are smart enough to make an informed decision on our own,” said Michael Zapata, an academic adviser at the school. “We urge them to commit to a free and fair election without interference, misinformation or fear of retaliation from senior leadership.”

More than 600 employees of the museum and its affiliated school announced their union drive in August. By late September, a majority of workers had signed union authorization cards, and employees asked leadership of the museum and school to voluntarily recognize the union. When management refused, employees continued organizing, and now have filed for election with overwhelming support from their co-workers.

AIC and SAIC employees want fair pay, transparent and accountable leadership, and a voice in the decisions that affect them. By forming their union, workers can make the museum and school better for all.

The workers are forming their union through AFSCME. About 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions nationwide and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries have joined together to build power through AFSCME.

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