Philadelphia Museum of Art workers union authorizes strike

Members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art union hold up signs at a protest pushing for a fair contract.

Twenty-two months into contract negotiations, the new art museum union has formally accused management of unfair labor practices and voted to authorize a strike. (Philadelphia Museum of Art Union)

The worker’s union of the Philadelphia Museum of Art has authorized a strike. On Tuesday night the union met to vote, and it says 99% voted in favor.

The vote does not mean the union is on strike, nor that it will strike, but the unit has agreed to if necessary during contract negotiations.

The widespread union covering many departments at the museum formed in 2020, and has been negotiating its first contract with management for 22 months. Last Friday, it filed charges against the museum with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union alleges the museum has violated federal labor law, accusing management of replacing full-time staff positions with temporary positions, which reduces the size of the union’s bargaining unit.

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“It’s been positions like department assistants. There is a need for these roles beyond the term of the employment for which they’re arguing these positions should be termed,” said union president Adam Rizzo.

Other charges filed against museum management with the NLRB claim the museum is misrepresenting contract negotiations in its internal, all-staff emails.

“We have been working with our attorneys for the last couple of months and have been meticulously documenting behavior from the management team,” said Rizzo. “These are all violations of federal law.”

The museum says it’s  “disappointed” with the union’s decision to file an unfair labor practice.

“The museum has been bargaining in good faith with the union, and we remain committed to making progress toward a collective bargaining agreement,” said a museum spokesperson in a statement. “The museum does not agree with the union’s assertions in the filing and looks forward to responding.”

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The National Labor relations Board could take months to make a decision regarding the union’s accusations.

“This is an opportunity for us to send a message to senior management to tell them to stop messing with the process and get serious at the bargaining table,” said Rizzo, who described management contract offers as “insulting.”

By the time the NLRB makes a decision, the museum may be under new leadership.

Sasha Suda will begin her role as the museum’s new director and CEO in September. She is a former unionized gallery worker and most recently was leader of the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, which is a unionized museum.

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