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Baltimore Museum of Art workers win historic union election

Photo credit: Baltimore Museum of Art Union’s Facebook page
Baltimore Museum of Art workers win historic union election
By AFSCME Staff ·

BALTIMORE – Nearly 140 workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) have overwhelmingly voted to form a union with AFSCME Council 67, becoming the first such institution in Maryland’s largest city to have one “wall-to-wall” union covering all employees.

This victory comes as part of a growing organizing movement led by AFSCME through its Cultural Workers United campaign to secure a voice on the job for workers at museums, libraries, zoos and other cultural institutions nationwide.

In the July 14 election conducted by the American Arbitration Association, BMA workers voted 89 to 29 in favor of their union.

The wall-to-wall unit includes staff from retail operations, conservation, curatorial, security, facilities, marketing, installation, education, and other units. BMA workers first announced intentions to unionize in the fall of 2021.

Workers formed the Baltimore Museum of Art Union (BMAU) to address health and safety concerns, ensure pay equity, gain a voice in the workplace, and secure paths to advancement.

Throughout the organizing process, workers steadfastly fought for a wall-to-wall union. They wrote to the museum’s Board of Trustees and public officials, and had conversations with museum leadership about the importance of having one union in their workplace.

AFSCME has gone public with two additional campaigns in Baltimore, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Walters Art Museum, the latter of which has refused to even meet with workers. 

Having a union “is a culminating moment not just for this museum but for all museums,” said Rob Kempton, a BMA security officer. “As we seek agency and express our interests, we’re looking to advocate for our community and for our own people.”

Victoria Gordon, a BMA visitor services associate, was grateful for the community’s support for the workers.

“It feels like community goodness right here. I love when my community comes together to make things happen. It’s nice to be able to join a lot of other museums across the country that are unionizing – this is bigger than ourselves,” Gordon said. “This right here feels not only like voices being heard, but voices being appreciated, being seen, showing their power. When we all come together as one it’s like speaking through a bullhorn – it can’t go unnoticed.”

Associate Curator Leila Grothe said she’s excited for the changes BMAU can implement.

“We now have a voice in making a better workplace and a better life for each other,” Grothe said. “We’re eager to see the ways in which this benefits our entire organization from the bottom up.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott offered his congratulations.

“I am incredibly proud of the workers at the BMA and my friends at AFSCME for a successful union election today,” Scott said. “Coming from a union household, I know the power and agency that union membership affords workers. I am happy that more residents will be able to reap those benefits.”

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