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Nature Museum employees in Illinois forming union with AFSCME

Photo: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Nature Museum employees in Illinois forming union with AFSCME
By AFSCME Council 31 ·
Tags: Momentum

CHICAGO – Employees of the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park and its off-site collections facility in Ravenswood are forming their union, Chicago Academy of Sciences Workers United (CASWU), with AFSCME Council 31.

They filed union representation petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago on Tuesday. The filing will trigger a union election in the coming weeks in which the employees can vote to formally certify their union.

The NLRB filing comes just one week after the CASWU/AFSCME organizing committee launched the public phase of its organizing campaign — an indication of the overwhelmingly strong support for the union among museum employees.

“We’re forming our union because we want to work with our colleagues and leadership to ensure that our institution is always becoming an equitable, inclusive and safe workplace. That can’t happen unless we have an equal say in the decisions that affect us,” said Anabel Hirano, a member of the CASWU/AFSCME organizing committee who is volunteer and intern coordinator at the Nature Museum.

“I would like the employees of Chicago’s oldest museum to be able to afford to own a home in the city that we love and serve. We should feel safe and supported by our employer,” said Jessy Rose Williams, an exhibit fabricator/technician who’s also an organizing committee member. “In our union we can make things better for ourselves and for the public." 

Once certified, CASWU/AFSCME will represent nearly 50 employees who work in the museum’s guest experience and engagement, education, biology or collections departments.

AFSCME is at the forefront of a wave of union organizing in the cultural sector both locally and across the country.

Nature Museum employees join the Art Institute of Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library and the Field Museum who have recently formed unions as part of AFSCME’s Cultural Workers United campaign.

“Cultural work is work, and all work must have dignity,” said Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch, who’s also an AFSCME vice president. “Our union is pleased to help Nature Museum employees and all cultural workers take their rightful seat at the table.”

AFSCME is the largest union for cultural workers nationwide, including more than 10,000 museum workers at more than 90 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.

The Chicago Academy of Sciences was founded in 1857 and opened the city’s first public museum in 1869. Known for its butterfly haven, hands-on science instruction and extensive collection of natural history specimens, the current Notebaert Nature Museum opened in 1999.

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