For the second time in two weeks, workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) are organizing a strike, as contract negotiations with the institution remain deadlocked.
Today, members of the union – a group of more than 150 employees representing nearly every department of the museum – will picket outside the venue rather than show up for work. “Our message has been clear: address unfair labor practices and come to the bargaining table with serious offers,” the group said in a statement. announcement.
The move comes just 11 days after the bargaining unit organized a “warning strike” hoping to put pressure on the museum to resolve the protracted dispute between the two parties.
However, while the previous protest was designed as a one-day event, today’s strike could last for days or even weeks as workers say they are ready to picket until their demands are met. contractual are satisfied.
“We are ready to stay as long as necessary,” PMA union president Adam Rizzo told Artnet News.
The group has the means to do so. The union has a “strong strike fund” made up of donations from individuals and other unions, Rizzo said. One such gift was $25,000 from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers this summer.
But Rizzo added that the union hopes it doesn’t need all that money. “We’re ready to go sit down at the table later today if they want to,” he said. “But it’s really up to them to make that move.”
The PMA, for its part, plans to remain open for the duration of the strike. “The museum respects the right of employees to organize and strike but is disappointed that the union has decided to strike despite the significant wage increases and other offers made by the museum during the last bargaining session,” reads -on in a statement released by the institution today. .
The museum also shared details of its current offer to unionized employees, including wage increases of 8.5% over the next 10 months and 11% by July 1, 2024; a minimum annual salary for exempt employees that is more than 10% higher than the current lowest annual salary; four weeks of paid parental leave; a more flexible remote work schedule; and “job security protections that ensure the museum will not use a temporary employee, term employee, contractor, or volunteer to terminate or furlough a current union staff member.”
A spokesperson for the PMA declined to “speculate” on whether or not the institution would bring in temporary workers if the strike continues.
Negotiations between museum management and the workers’ group have been ongoing since October 2020, just months after 89% of the institution’s employees chose to unionize. Health care and wage increases are among the topics that have been discussed in near-weekly meetings held between the two sides since then.
The museum’s chief operating officer, Bill Peterson, along with representatives from his in-house attorney and the outside law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which has a well-documented track record history of trade unionism— are among those who have been present at meetings with the union.
Promoting a message of progress, the museum noted in its press release today that it has reached tentative agreements with the union on more than 25 “substantive issues”.
The union, in turn, confirmed that progress had been made on many “non-economic” issues, including during two marathon negotiation sessions that took place last week.
“But when we got to the economic package,” Rizzo said, “negotiations completely stalled.”
“We showed them [with the last strike] that we are able to put a lot of pressure on, and this week it’s about continuing that pressure,” Rizzo continued. “I hope we get back to the table very soon, really. I’m a museum educator. I want to be there teaching the kids this week instead of picketing outside, but it really depends on the high direction.
A PMA representative said the next meeting between the institution and the union is scheduled for later this week.
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