Milwaukee Museum of Art workers petition administrators, demanding pay rise, first union contract

Milwaukee Art Museum workers are asking management to solidify a first union contract.

Last update November 2, 2021 at 2:18 p.m.

Milwaukee Museum of Art workers petitioned its board this week in letters calling on leaders to raise wages and cement a first union contract.

The letters, which were sent ahead of the MAM’s annual membership meeting on Thursday, come nearly a year after the museum workers’ union was certified election with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

A group of more than 70 employees has been engaged in the first contract negotiations since February. In a letter released publicly on Wednesday, the group called on council trustees to support “workers’ desire for fair and decent job security; career development; increased access to health insurance; diversity and equity in the workplace; and stronger health and safety protections.

In response to the letter, the museum said in an emailed statement that the executives were working with union representatives to collaborate on a deal.

“While we cannot comment on ongoing negotiations with the union, we agree that Museum staff and their contributions are an important part of achieving the Museum’s mission and strategic direction,” the statement said.

The workers’ letter said the majority were laid off in 2020 and 2021 and 40% were earning less than $14.15 an hour — the current living wage for a single adult in Milwaukee County with no dependents, according to the MIT living wage calculator. Almost all positions in the bargaining unit are paid below the median salary for their positions, according to national association surveys, according to the group.

“We ask the management of the Museum to recognize that salaries at the Museum have been below average long before the current moment. The financial solvency of the Museum cannot be put on the shoulders of employees by paying below-median and below-subsistence wages,” the group said.

Many museum departments have been hit hard by recent departures, including design, curatorial, development and frontline staff. The museum will struggle to recruit and retain a diverse staff if it doesn’t raise salaries, employees say.

“Counting only the employees covered by the contract, the museum has lost more than 120 years of cumulative experience over the past four months,” the letter said. “For the museum to succeed and to continue the important work of the museum, change is needed now.”

In an emailed statement, the museum acknowledged that this is an “unprecedented time for the labor market”, which has affected MAM and other businesses.

“Yet during these uncertain times, the Museum has successfully recruited new talent and expertise that fuels our mission in areas such as human resources, community dialogue, information systems, design, education and development, to name a few. the statement said.

MAM employees are among the workers of several businesses in the region over the past year continue unionization.

A group of Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee workers recently unionized as part of Local 494 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. vote.

In September, entertainment venue and restaurant Bounce Milwaukee reopened after an 18-month closure as a union store after its owners granted union representation to its employees through the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Organization.

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Mildred D. Field