While museums across the country have been laying off workers due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, two of Baltimore’s biggest museums recently announced that they will be implementing wage increases for the museums’ lowest paid workers.
Both the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum have raised minimum wage for full-time employees to $15 an hour. The Walters museum also raised the minimum wage for part-time employees to $13 an hour. These pay increase effect 50 employees at the BMA and 44 workers at the Walters museum– about 30 percent of the staff at both museums.
According to the Baltimore Sun, both institutions had been working towards the pay raises for some time. At the BMA, the higher minimum wage is a part of a slew of diversity initiatives the museum has been looking to fund for months. Last year, the museum had planned to sell three paintings from its collection by Andy Warhol, Clyfford Styll and Brice Marden in order to raise $50 million for the endowment and allow the museum to raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour. The museum cancelled the sale after backlash from art enthusiasts. In a press release, the BMA revealed that the new immediate minimum wage increase was funded by a $110,000 donation from Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Legum.
The Walters museum had pay raises in the works for many years. Thanks to donations the institution received in January, the new minimum wages will go into effect when the museum reopens to the public in March. Julia Marciari-Alexander, the Walters’ executive director and CEO, told the Baltimore Sun that the $15 minimum wage is just the first step in more equitable wages. “This commitment is not just a one-time pay increase. It is a civic initiative and part of a larger conversation nationwide about the need for a real living wage, notably in the museum field,” Marciari-Alexander said.