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First union contract represents a huge victory to workers at Columbus Museum of Art

Photo: CMAWU
First union contract represents a huge victory to workers at Columbus Museum of Art

Workers at the Columbus Museum of Art who are members of Columbus Museum of Art Workers United (CMAWU/AFSCME Ohio Council 8) are celebrating a huge victory this week after their first union contract became a reality.

The contract was ratified Monday by the CMA administration after CMA workers voted unanimously earlier this month in favor of ratification. Their victory is the culmination of a process that began after the workers formed their own union in fall 2022.

“We formed our union because we knew the only chance we had to meaningfully address many of the concerns we faced as individual employees could only be addressed together as a union,” said Blake Thompson, a CMA employee who is also CMAWU president. “This organizing campaign and ratified contract have solidified my commitment to working in the arts while creating a sustainable and equitable workplace.”

Their new, multiyear contract includes across-the-board wage increases, enhanced benefits, improved job security policies and the opportunity to address working conditions, according to a press release from Council 8. It also includes clear policies for paid sick leave, the accrual of vacation and the establishment of a labor-management committee that meets on a regular basis.

“This historic contract gives me hope,” said RG Barton, a CMAWU member. “As a museum employee, I know that while we didn’t achieve all our contract goals, we were able to establish union rights and a clear accountability process with CMA administration.”

The workers believe the new contract will help them address the high rate of turnover at the museum and improve workplace culture. Since they formed their union, workers at other cultural institutions across Ohio have reached out to Ohio Council 8 to organize their own workplaces.

“These union leaders have set the stage for other museum and cultural employees to unionize and obtain the dignity and respect they deserve on the job,” said Sean R. Grayson, president of  Ohio Council 8 and an AFSCME vice president, adding that the council “is proud to stand with them and the hundreds of employees from museums, zoos, botanical gardens and other cultural institutions we represent.”

Through its Cultural Workers United campaign, AFSCME represents more cultural workers than any other union, including 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.

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