Art Market

Philadelphia Museum of Art employees voted overwhelmingly to unionize.

Justin Kamp
Aug 7, 2020 4:33PM, via The Art Newspaper

The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image via Flickr.

Employees at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionization on Thursday, making the institution home to one of the largest and most comprehensive museum unions in the country. Eighty-nine percent of eligible PMA staff voted to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 47 union (AFSCME DC 47), resulting in a museum-wide union that will represent nearly 250 employees across various departments and service silos.

The vote follows a year-long organizing campaign by PMA staff that began in response to a lack of transparency and accountability from museum leadership, as well as multiple reports of abusive management. Unionization efforts have been recently catalyzed by major layoff announcements precipitated by COVID-19. Earlier this week, the museum announced a 23 percent staff reduction which would amount to 85 layoffs and an additional 42 voluntary separations—the PMA had initially placed a number of these employees on furlough.

PMA educator Adam Rizzo told The Art Newspaper:

Our museum, like many others, is really siloed by department, so conversations were happening in different cohorts. Eventually, we started communicating all together, and an organizing committee formed organically. We realized many of our concerns were shared among the staff, regardless of department.

Organizers at the PMA requested voluntary recognition from the museum in May of this year, but upper management refused, which led organizers to seek hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Despite a months-long campaign by executives to quell collective bargaining through listening tours, workplace culture assessments, and the creation of an anonymous human resources hotline for reporting abuse or misconduct, staff still overwhelmingly voted in favor of unionization.

The vote by the PMA employees follows a string of recent unionization pushes at art institutions, including by workers at the Guggenheim Museum, New Museum, The Shed, and Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Justin Kamp
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