Art Museum Staffers Ratify First Contract, Look Forward To Returning To Work

Art Museum Staffers Ratify First Contract, Look Forward To Returning To Work

The first union members to strike at the Philadelphia Museum of Art overwhelmingly agreed to their first contract Sunday night and will return to work Monday morning, ending a historic 19-day strike.

"I love my job and I'm very happy to be back," said Maya Wind, a graphic editor who has worked at the museum for 33 years and has been on guard for 19 days since September 26.

We got the deal we deserved. "We really deserved more, but we won the attack. We definitely beat the strike. So we will come back and we will be very strong."

The PMA Union, a member of AFSCME DC47, has been negotiating with museum management for two years. In the end, the museum agreed to everything the union wanted, approved a 14 percent wage increase over three years (starting this year through July), raised the hourly minimum wage from $15 to $16.75, and added a "long-term resident" hike. . It gives workers an additional $500 for every five years of work, four weeks of paid parental leave and assistance with high health insurance costs.

The agreement received 99% approval, with more than 120 members voting.

Frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations, the 180-strong union leader – about 350 workers here at the museum – filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in August and called for a one-day "preventive" strike in September. 16.

The museum's chief executive officer, William Peterson, said the union's actions were disappointing and promised the museum would remain open with union managers and workers on every work break.

Finally, the unions announced the start of a full strike on September 26.

This isn't the first strike to affect the museum—city workers went on strike in the 1980s and 1990s as the city faced its own financial crisis—but it was the first museum-wide strike in the city's history. .

The situation was complicated by the retirement of all the museum's top brass earlier this year, including executive director Timothy Raab. That led to Peterson, a Verizon veteran, being hired as a museum attorney to oversee the museum's negotiations and day-to-day operations.

On strike day, Sasha Suda, former director of the National Gallery of Canada, took over as director and chief executive. The museum said it would not participate in the talks, leaving the audience confused.

"I thought a lot and tried to stay calm about it. But it was sweet."

Chris Howlish

Leslie Ann Miller, chair of the museum's supervisory board, said the museum hopes to complete a settlement by the time the courts reach it.

"That didn't happen," Miller said. "There is no turning back, but the truth is that we had this difficult discussion for two years. And we agreed that the museum would do a better job of making Sasha understand the inner world and finish what we had. It started … and even though you can't see him, he's very active, thoughtful and a member of this team and very fast.

According to one of the sources, who was not authorized to comment on the negotiations and did not want to be named, the reason for the slow pace of negotiations was because the museum's management "assumed that the workers would not go on strike, and if they did, we would not go on strike." ". "Go on strike".

In other words, workers are walking out and over the line.

"They were very wrong," said one source.

What ultimately changed was for city and state officials to join forces, according to this source.

"I think the support of local and state officials is driving the talks," he said. "And people who know the chief executive of the board well have urged them to sort out their problems and get back to work."

Sources say Mayor Jim Kenney; Rich Skin, Deputy Mayor of Labor; And Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro were among those instrumental in advancing the negotiations.

Catching it all is the upcoming blockbuster museum exhibit, " Matisse in the 1930s, " which opens to the public on October 20. The preview was scheduled for VIPs and members last weekend.

The director of the museum didn't like the prospect of opening an international exhibition surrounded by choice, as the museum's wealthy visitors outnumbered strikers.

On Friday, the museum and association announced a preliminary agreement. On Sunday, the union voted to approve the contract.

After Friday's announcement, Suda spoke of a "cure".

"This is the beginning of a new chapter," he said. “There are many healings ahead of us that need to be pursued.

Museum photographer Joseph Hu said most of the "healings" were likely the result of union contracts.

"I think there will be a big change in the way the museum treats its staff," he said. "Be more open, respectful and considerate – when you talk about diversity and inclusion in press conferences, rather than just saying, 'Equality and not really supporting it.'

“There are documents [agreements] that are challenging and really explain and formalize how we should be treated. I think this is an important step not only for our museum, but for other museums and other institutions in the cultural sector.

Chris Howlish, a 17-year museum veteran, said the situation "unfortunately intensified" as the strike continued – in large part because of continued reports that the museum was hiring unionized workers in the union. Matisse hangs paintings for exhibition.

Images of this Matis loader have been circulating on social media platforms.

"Oh yeah, it feels great to win," said Hawlish. "I think there was a lot of thinking going on. I thought a lot and tried to be calm about it. But it was sweet."

Kansas State Board of Education Meeting September 13, 2022

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