Art Museum staff approve first contract, looking forward to getting back to work

Hit the first union members in the history of floors Philadelphia Museum of Art They overwhelmingly agreed to their first contract Sunday evening and prepared to return to their jobs on Monday morning, concluding a historic 19-day strike.

“I love my job, and I’m really happy to be back at work,” said Maya Wind, a graphics editor who has worked at the museum for 33 years and has queued up for the 19 days since September 26.

“We were able to hold out the decade we deserve,” she said. “We actually deserved a lot, but we won the strike. We definitely won the strike. So we will come back and we will be very strong.”

The PMA Consortium, affiliated with AFSCME DC47, had been negotiating a two-year deal with museum management. In the end the museum agreed For nearly everything the union wants, agreeing to a 14% wage increase over three years (backward to July of this year), an increase in the minimum hourly wage from $15 to $16.75, and a “longevity” pay increase that That would give workers an additional $500 for every five years of work, four weeks of paid parental leave, and help with the high cost of health insurance.

The contract had a 99% approval rating with over 120 members attending to vote.

The leaders of the 180-member unit—here are about 350 museum employees—sick with the slow pace of bargaining—complained to the National Labor Relations Board in August and called a one-day “warning” strike in September.16.

William Peterson, the museum’s chief operating officer, called the union action a disappointment and pledged that the museum would remain open, staffed by non-union directors and individuals during any worker layover.

The union finally called a general strike on 26 September.

This was not the first strike to affect the museum – there were strikes by municipal workers in the 1980s and 1990s, when the city was having its own financial problems – but this was the first enterprise-wide and museum-specific strike in the city’s history.

Complicating matters further, the top levels in the museum’s hierarchy, including CEO and Director Timothy Robb, had all retired by the beginning of this year. That left Peterson, a Verizon veteran assigned to work as a museum attorney, overseeing negotiations and the museum’s day-to-day operations.

On the day of the strike, Sacha Suda, the former director of the National Gallery of Canada, a union organization, arrived to take over as director and CEO. The museum announced that it would not participate in the negotiations, baffling observers.

“I think a lot and really try to keep it right about it. But it looks beautiful.”

Chris Havelish

Leslie Ann Miller, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, said the museum had hoped to dissolve the contract by the time Soda arrived.

“It didn’t happen,” Miller said. “Not looking back, but the truth is that we’ve spent two years in these complex negotiations. And we agreed that Sasha could better serve the Museum by starting to get inward directions, letting us finish what we started…And although you might You didn’t see him, she was an energetic, thoughtful and very important member of this team and in a very short time.”

One source, who was not authorized to comment on the negotiations and asked not to be named, said that part of the reason the negotiations were slowing down was that the museum’s leadership “was under the impression that the staff wouldn’t strike, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to strike.”

In other words, workers will drop out and cross the line.

“They were deeply wrong,” the source said.

What made the difference in the end, according to this source, was that city and state officials were involved.

“I think it was the mediation of elected officials at the local and state level” that prompted the start of the talks, the source said. “People who know key board leaders well urged them to solve problems and get back to work.”

Several sources said Mayor Jim Kenny. Rich Lazer, Deputy Mayor for Labor Affairs; Attorney General and Governor nominee Josh Shapiro was among those who played a role in moving the negotiations.

Looming an impending museum exhibition, Matisse in the thirties, which opens to the public on October 20. VIP and member previews are scheduled for this past weekend.

Museum officials did not relish the idea of ​​opening an international exhibition surrounded by picket lines as wealthy museum-goers walked their way through the strikers.

The museum and the union announced a tentative agreement on Friday. On Sunday, the union voted to ratify the contract.

On Friday, after the announcement, Souda spoke of “healing.”

“This is the beginning of a new chapter,” she said. “There will be a lot of healing that has to ensue.”

Joseph Ho, a photographer for the museum, said much of the “healing” is likely a result of having the Guild Contract itself.

“I think this will become a huge change in the way a museum should view its staff,” he said. “With more transparency, respect and thought – rather than just a press release where they talk about diversity and inclusive equality and don’t really support it.

“This is a document [the contract] This challenges that, clarifies and formalizes the way we should be treated. I think it’s a big step not only for our museum, you know, but for other museums and other institutions in the cultural sector.”

Art therapist Chris Havelish, a 17-year-old museum veterinarian, said the situation had “unfortunately become very dire” as the strike continued – in large part because there were persistent reports that the museum was bringing in non-union workers to suspend art for Matisse Gallery.

Pictures of these Matisse installers have gone viral across social media platforms.

“Oh, yeah, it’s great to win,” said Havelish. “I think a lot of thinking happens. I think a lot and try to keep a balance on this. But it looks beautiful.”

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