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Columbus Museum of Art employees seek voluntary recognition from museum trustees

Photo Credit: Howard TJ/ Flickr
Columbus Museum of Art employees seek voluntary recognition from museum trustees
By Namita Waghray, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 ·

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Employees at the Columbus Museum of Art are waiting for management to voluntarily recognize their union, which workers are forming through AFSCME Council 8.

On Aug. 29, about 30 employees delivered a letter requesting voluntary recognition of their union, Columbus Museum of Art Workers United (CMAWU), and the right to begin collectively bargaining with the museum.

Employees at the city’s premiere cultural institution have always been committed to making art more accessible to the public. But museum managers’ lack of respect towards employees, their brushing aside of proposals for meaningful changes to the museum’s operations, and their disregard for the health and safety of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic are primary reasons workers cite for their organizing efforts.

Read the letter presented to CMA Executive Director Nanette and the CMA Board of Trustees here.

Employees like R.G. Barton, a visitor engagement employee, say the only way they can make lasting improvements is when their union is recognized and administration begins to hear and respect workers’ voices.

“CMA cannot effectively fulfill its mission without a strong, dedicated workforce. The goal of CMA Workers United is to ensure that the museum is prepared to work with its employees, respecting their contributions and collective voice,” Barton said. “CMA Workers United is committed to seeing this venerated cultural institution value not just the community it serves but its employees that are vital to its operation.”

CMAWU has received an outpouring of support from their community and several Columbus political and legislative leaders. In a letter, all three Franklin County commissioners said they recognize the important connection between collective bargaining and a more equitable and productive future for the community.

“Allowing for collective bargaining would be a way to join us in our efforts to ensure residents and children have equitable access to opportunities for a productive, prosperous and thriving future,” County Commission President Erica C. Crawley and commissioners John O’Grady and Kevin Boyce wrote.

Other political leaders who have expressed their support include Columbus City Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown and council member Robert Dorans.

The community is also standing in solidarity with the CMAWU members. A petition began circulating a little over a week ago asking that the CMA Board of Trustees recognize the union – and it has 600 signatures.

Recently in California, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ employee union won voluntary recognition from management. The Columbus Museum of Art Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on Sept. 19 on whether to recognize CMAWU.

AFSCME, a union of 1.4 million workers nationwide, represents nearly 10,000 museum workers nationwide. Our union’s Cultural Workers United campaign represents over 35,000 workers at museums, libraries and zoos who are increasingly joining together to negotiate for better pay, working conditions, and to demand equity and fight for transparency in their workplaces.

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