Philadelphia Museum of Art Staff on Strike over Fair Contract

Roughly 180 unionized employees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) will go on strike today as part of a continuing effort to secure a fair contract, for which they have been negotiating with museum officials for two years. The union—which formed in May 2020 under the aegis of AFSCME District Council 47, Local 397—has accused PMA management of dragging its feet in the bargaining process, which began in October 2020. The strike arrives in the wake of a one-day warning strike staged by staff in early September, which itself came a week after union bosses filed an unfair labor practices grievance with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming malfeasance on the part of PMA, which says it will remain open during the action. Of note, the strike comes as unionized workers of the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh lobby for a living wage, which they began publicly doing earlier this week. The unions at both institutions were established within a few months of each other.

 “After two years of negotiations, our membership cannot accept further stalling and union-busting. We had hoped the museum’s appointment of a new director and CEO, Sasha Suda, would signal a change in tone and that she would be more involved in helping us reach a fair agreement,” said Local 397 president Adam Rizzo in a statement. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. If the choice is between accepting the status quo or going on strike, we choose to strike. It’s up to museum management to present a better option.”

The union argues that PMA management has yet to bring a “serious” offer to the bargaining table. Primary among the issues the union seeks to address are the need to improve wages, which they argue are well documented as being significantly lower than those for staff at similar institutions. The union also aims to reduce health care costs, charging that the health care plans currently offered by the PMA are so expensive and the wages so low that most staff have no hope of affording high-quality health insurance.

“Our members will not accept a contract that does not bring wages and benefits at the museum up to an acceptable standard,” said DC47 president Cathy Scott in a statement.“The past two years have only strengthened this workforce’s resolve and solidarity. We are ready for what a strike means; are they?”

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