AFSCME Brings Power of Convention and Momentum to Rally for Philadelphia Museum of Art Workers

By AFSCME staff

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They showed up by the thousands for their union family.

AFSCME 45 attendeese The international convention brought the momentum and power they generated at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Wednesday to rally for their fellow AFSCME members who have been denied a fair contract for two year.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Union, which organized with AFSCME as PMA Union Local 397 (AFSCME District Council 47) in August 2020, was blocked by museum management, who refused to compromise on measures that would provide staff with greater job security, pay and freedom from harassment.

Nearly two years ago, PMA workers made history by voting 89% in favor of forming the nation’s first wall-to-wall museum union. A relatively new phenomenon in the cultural sector, a wall-to-wall union allows all eligible workers, regardless of department, to unite into a single bargaining unit.

The museum’s reluctance to give in to the modest demands of its workers is baffling, as the PMA has an annual budget of $60 million, nearly $1 billion in assets and pockets deep enough to hire a cabinet. anti-union lawyers.

“We are here to let the workers of the Philadelphia Museum of Art know that they are not alone,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said from the PMA steps to the crowd. “Their entire AFSCME family…1.4 million strong…support them and will stay in the burrow with them until they get a contract. We are all together in this fight.

AFSCME is contributing $25,000 to the PMA union’s strike fund. Go here to make your own contribution.

AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride highlighted the involvement of the Green Machine in support of PMA workers.

“It feels so good to bring this fight to your boss’s doorstep. I hope you feel uplifted by this AFSCME sea of ​​green,” McBride said. “By the time this is over, they (management) will (know) that when you fight with the workers of this city, you are fighting with all of us.”

Leaders of the PMA union Local 397, part of a wider movement of cultural workers organizing to make their voices heard, painted a stark picture of stagnating wages and the obstacles they faced .

PMA Local 397 president Adam Rizzo, who has worked in the museum’s education department for nearly eight years, called out the PMA for laying off 127 workers during the pandemic despite taking nearly 11 million dollars in federal pandemic relief aid that was supposed to protect workers.

“I have a message for Board Chair Leslie Anne Miller and COO Bill Petersen,” Rizzo said. “Your anti-union behavior over the past two years has made it clear that you have no respect for the workers who make the museum the amazing place it is. We won’t tolerate it and neither will the city of Philadelphia. »

District 47 Council President Cathy Scott said PMA management’s attitude towards workers was “despicable” and “mean-spirited”. Workers are resisting management pressure to hire an unlimited number of temporary workers “with no benefits, no union representation and no job security,” Scott said.

“They are deliberately trying to evict long-serving workers here at the museum – the same workers who voted to unionize here. There’s only one word for it – it’s anti-union,” Scott said.

Sarah Roche, a gallery maintenance technician who was hired in 1997, described how her salary has barely improved in nearly a quarter century of working at the museum.

“I haven’t had a significant raise in a very long time, not since the Bush administration!” said Roche. “They said I had hit a plateau for my job description. Despite this disappointment, I decided to stay. Why? Well, I love my job and I do it pretty well. But with the cost of life that far exceeds my salary, it becomes more and more difficult to continue working at the museum that I love.

Ernest Garrett, president of AFSCME District 33 Philadelphia Council, sent a message of solidarity to his fellow Philadelphians on behalf of his council.

“Now is the time to let them know that they are going to give us a fair contract or we are going to do what we always do – fight,” he said.

Not only were workers encouraged by the show of solidarity as AFSCME members across the country stood on the steps made famous by the movie “Rocky”, but the AFSCME family helped amplify the message from the workers to the management of the museum: give these workers the contract they deserve.

Mildred D. Field