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Legislation would give Walters Art Museum employees collective bargaining rights

Legislation would give Walters Art Museum employees collective bargaining rights
By Kathleen Cancio ·

BALTIMORE – After nearly two years of fighting for union recognition, workers at the Walters Art Museum, who announced they were organizing with AFSCME in spring 2021, are gaining momentum in the legislature.

Earlier this month, Maryland state Del. Robbyn Lewis and Sen. Jill Carter, both of Baltimore City, sponsored legislation that would give employees at the Walters Art Museum collective bargaining rights and the ability to have their union recognized. Due in part to intractable museum leadership, the workers have been unable to certify their union despite achieving overwhelming support among staff.

The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on House Bill 116, which creates a simple and efficient process through which Walters’ workers can gain union recognition. The legislation would allow workers to certify their union by verifying majority support through signed union cards or by secret ballot election, which would be overseen by the labor commissioner.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has been a steady supporter of the organizing drive at the Walters Art Museum and has continued to support their rights to organize by including their bill as a 2023 Baltimore City legislative priority

Garrett Stralnic, a gallery officer at the Walters Art Museum, welcomed the new legislation as an opportunity to finally secure a protected voice at work.

“I have witnessed too many instances where my co-workers and I did not have a voice to share our concerns. This includes prior health and safety concerns and current concerns regarding diversity and inclusion,” said Stralnic. “Our legislation will secure the collective bargaining rights we deserve."

The introduction of House Bill 116 comes on the heels of Walters Workers United’s recent victory regarding a lawsuit filed against the Walters Art Museum over its rejection of a Maryland Public Information Act request. Workers celebrated the favorable ruling as a step towards transparency and accountability at the museum, values they intend to continue advancing through their union.

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