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Philadelphia Museum of Artwork Staff Rally for “Truthful Contract” as Negotiations Stall

Philadelphia Museum of Artwork Staff Rally for “Truthful Contract” as Negotiations Stall

Philadelphia Museum of Art Workers Rally for "Fair Contract" as Negotiations Stall

Staff on the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork throughout a union rally on April 1, 2022 (picture Isabella Segalovich/Hyperallergic)

On the gusty Friday night of April 1, staff on the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork (PMA) gathered on the constructing’s West Entrance with representatives from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Staff (AFSCME) Union to talk out in regards to the museum’s delay in assembly their calls for for a secure and sustainable work setting. In August of 2020, staff on the PMA made historical past because the first wall-to-wall union at a serious American museum, voting to unionize with an 89% supermajority. To today, the PMA administration nonetheless hasn’t supplied the PMA Union a contract as staff proceed to demand truthful wages, sufficient safety from harassment, and inexpensive healthcare advantages. 

A gaggle of about 250 PMA workers, AFSCME members, and Philadelphia neighbors listened and clapped together with speeches from museum employees, union representatives, Philadelphia muralist Symone Salib, and politicians together with Pennsylvania State Senator Nikhil Saval. AFSCME members led rounds of hearty chanting, resembling “What do we would like? A contract! When do we would like it? Now!” and “Rise up! Get down! Philly is a union city!” Members waved indicators that includes slogans like, “FAIR CONTRACT NOW,” “Put your Monet the place your mouth is,” and “The Union Makes Us Robust” whereas marching across the museum constructing and up its grand steps, the place the energized chanting continued. 

Union formation on the PMA started brewing in 2019 after staff discovered pay discrepancies between workers performing the identical jobs. In January of 2020, a whole bunch of PMA staff signed a petition calling for adjustments to the museum’s anti-harassment coverage, in response to a number of allegations of sexual misconduct in opposition to the museum’s former Assistant Director of Interpretation Joshua Helmer. This was carefully adopted by a report that uncovered the extent of verbal and bodily assault by the museum’s former director of retail, James A. Cincotta, who had remained employed for a number of years after these incidents allegedly occurred. PMA staff scheduled their union election in June of 2020, days after the museum eradicated over 20% of its employees by a mix of furloughs and voluntary separations, which was seen as controversial in gentle of their receiving a big Payroll Safety Program (PPP) mortgage. A spokesperson from the museum advised Hyperallergic that that they had acquired the PPP mortgage “within the quantity of $5,099,447” and that “100% was used to fund salaries and advantages.”

A gaggle of about 250 PMA workers, AFSCME members, and Philadelphia neighbors listened and clapped together with speeches from museum employees, union representatives, and others. (picture courtesy Tim Tiebout)

PMA management apologized for mishandling complaints of sexual misconduct, and in January 2020, the establishment introduced the creation of an nameless hotline for reporting incidents and trainings overlaying “harassment, discrimination, and anti-bias coaching,” in keeping with the spokesperson. In a speech at Friday’s rally, museum educator and PMA Union President Adam Rizzo mentioned that “administration would really like us to overlook in regards to the main harassment scandals that many people have lived by, the place we reported abusive managers however to no avail. On the bargaining desk, we’re demanding that administration agree to truly implement their very own anti-harassment coverage — one thing they merely refuse to do.” 

A spokesperson from the PMA advised Hyperallergic that unionized employees “has a proper to make their voices heard and the museum respects that proper.” 

“We’re dedicated to reaching a collective bargaining settlement with the union, one which leads to a contract that’s truthful to our employees and ensures the well being and sustainability of the museum into the longer term,” the spokesperson added.

In a speech on the rally, Rizzo mentioned that when staff initially uncovered pay discrepancies, they noticed how “understaffed, overworked, and underpaid” they have been. Rizzo added that it’s “shameful” {that a} museum with a big price range has “employees that works a number of jobs to get by.” A PMA spokesperson advised Hyperallergic that the working price range in 2020 was $57 million and $49 million in 2021.

A union member holding an indication that reads “Shield artwork staff, not simply the artwork” (picture courtesy Tim Tiebout)

Whereas new development within the museum has price over $230 million, many workers haven’t acquired raises in years. Staff famous that the status of being part of a lauded establishment is commonly used as an excuse to pay staff much less. Rizzo says that they aren’t solely asking for truthful pay however transparency on how wage raises are decided. “We consider that may create extra fairness and variety and produce extra individuals into the sector, if individuals can are available understanding that they are going to get a elevate yearly,” he advised Hyperallergic. Rizzo additionally mentioned that when wage transparency spreadsheets, circulated by museum staff, got here out in 2019, PMA staff discovered “that our wages have been wildly depressed” in comparison with related establishments.

A museum growth employee, Su Spina, mentioned in her speech, “Our work makes every thing that occurs on the museum doable. We deserve wages and advantages that make it doable for a median Philadelphian to work right here.” 

Spina spoke in regards to the precarity of working with out inexpensive well being advantages, particularly for individuals with pre-existing circumstances. She went on to explain how staff have to decide on between a less expensive healthcare possibility with an especially excessive deductible and a plan that “prices 4 occasions as a lot per pay interval. For those who’re like me and you’ve got pre-existing well being circumstances or require surgical procedure, these choices actually go away you with no selection in any respect.” 

Staff on the PMA made historical past in 2020 as the primary wall-to-wall union at a serious American museum. (picture courtesy Tim Tiebout)

“I really feel like I’ve been punished for being sick,” mentioned Spina. Her phrases have been met by boos of anger and yells of help from the gang. In conversations following the speeches, staff from the museum’s Customer Providers division additionally expressed that they’re of essentially the most susceptible teams. They’re paid on the decrease finish of the dimensions whereas experiencing essentially the most publicity to the general public, with variable security precautions because the starting of the COVID pandemic. 

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The union says it despatched its proposals to management between late January and late February, however has not but acquired a response from the establishment. Cathy Scott, president of AFSCME District Council 47, mentioned in her speech that “the shortage of motion and respect on the bargaining desk is union-busting, pure and easy.” She admonished the museum for investing in anti-union ways relatively than of their workers. In June of 2020, the museum employed Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a legislation agency notorious for union-busting providers and recognized for aiding Ronald Reagan in breaking the PATCO air visitors controllers union in 1981. 

Whereas negotiations with the PMA stay stagnant, the formation of the primary “wall-to-wall” museum union has impressed staff to arrange at museums just like the Milwaukee Museum of Artwork, MFA Boston, and the Whitney Museum

Rizzo has seen that throughout many organizing efforts that there’s usually a story being pushed of “disgruntled workers which might be offended, that they’ve grievances [and that’s why] they’re organizing.”

“I discover that dismissive and hurtful,” he mentioned. “We do that work as a result of we love the establishments and the work that we do — for the museum, for our group, and for our metropolis.”

Editor’s be aware 4/7/22 2pm EST: This text has been up to date to incorporate feedback from the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork.

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