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Philadelphia Museum of Art staffers seek to unite through AFSCME

Photo Credit: Getty / richiesd
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By Namita Waghray ·

Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have decided to join together to build power through AFSCME.

They filed an election petition on May 22 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to form a union through AFSCME. The organizing committee also sent a letter to the museum’s management, seeking voluntary recognition of their union.

Leaders like Nicole Cook, an organizing committee member and a program manager in charge of the nationally renowned museum’s graduate academic partnerships, began the organizing drive almost a year ago, wanting to address workplace issues.

“We want the museum to be a safe, accessible and equitable place to work and engage with the arts,” Cook said.

The organizing has taken a deeper meaning since mid-March, when the museum shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers want to make sure that the museum, when it reopens, serves the best interests of not just visitors and the community, but also of its workers.

In a letter to museum administration, the organizing committee laid out several reasons for seeking to form a union through AFSCME District Council 47. Those include:

“We expect that you will respect our unionization, as you have in working with the unions representing our security and part of our facilities staff. Unions have a long history of representing a broad range of workers both here in Philadelphia, and in art museums nationally,” the organizing committee wrote.

Employees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art join several other cultural workers across the country in building power in their workplaces through their unions. Late last year, for instance, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles voluntarily recognized its worker union.

Museum workers across the country, including in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York, are organizing with AFSCME and Cultural Workers United to create cultural spaces that enrich communities while providing fair and equitable working conditions for employees.

Learn More

Visit Cultural Workers United to see how workers at museums and other cultural institutions can build power at the workplace and gain a voice on the job.

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