On May 22, workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art announced their intention to unionize and requested that the museum’s senior management voluntarily recognize the union.
PMA staff argue that the union is an important part of reopening the museum safely and equitably. The union would allow staff to have a greater say in the decision-making process surrounding reopening. Sarah Shaw, a union organizer and education coordinator for the museum, told WHYY that, “we know there is a reopening committee, but with 65% of rank and file staff involved in this unionization effort, not a single one of us is involved in those conversations. We have very little information about the plans.” The union’s petition calls for the museum to prioritize visitor and employee safety and ensure that the financial burden of the closure does not impact programs that serve the community when PMA reopens.
The workers plan to affiliate with District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME DC 47), one of the largest labor organizations in the country. AFSCME DC 47 currently includes workers at several cultural institutions across the city. Organizers say that the art museum’s union represents workers from across many departments within the museum, including guest services staff, art handlers, researchers, and educational staff, among others.
The petition calls for museum management to voluntarily recognize the union. If management chooses not to recognize it, the issue would go to a vote. Management has acknowledged that they have received the petition, and a spokesman said that they would consider the petition after the Memorial Day Weekend.