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Philadelphia Museum of Art workers begin strike over unfair labor practices for better wages, benefits

Photo Credit: Javier Pierrend
By Kathleen Cancio ·

Faced with the management’s refusal to remedy unfair labor practices and address workers’ major priorities during contract negotiations, AFSCME Local 397 (District Council 47) – the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union (PMAU) – began a museum-wide strike Monday.

The action comes a week after nearly 200 workers participated in a one-day warning strike and is part of PMAU's ongoing struggle to secure a contract in the face of PMAU’s unfair labor practices. The workers are seeking fair wages, affordable health care and paid parental leave.

In a press release, PMAU said, “Museum management has yet to make an offer at the bargaining table that improves union members’ health care plans, which are so expensive that the vast majority of members can’t afford high quality health insurance. Management’s pay proposals do nothing to address the documented gap between PMA’s low wages and the standard of pay at peer museums.”

Adam Rizzo, an educator at PMA and president of Local 397, expressed disappointment that museum management and its board of directors chose not to heed the one-day warning strike and come to the bargaining table with serious offers to improve pay and provide better benefits for workers.

"After two years of negotiations, our membership cannot accept further stalling and union-busting,” said Rizzo. “If the choice is between accepting the status quo or going on strike, we choose to strike. It’s up to museum management to present a better option.”

In August 2020, workers at the PMA made history by winning their union election by a landslide and forming the first wall-to-wall museum union in the country. Since then, workers have been fighting to secure their first contract and over the summer held several rallies to pressure management to stop stalling negotiations. Museum management’s refusal to negotiate over PMAU’s most important priorities have forced workers to strike.

“Our members will not accept a contract that does not bring wages and benefits at the museum up to an acceptable standard,” said DC 47 President Cathy Scott. “If Board Chair Leslie Anne Miller and COO Bill Petersen believe we will accept less if they drag this process out long enough, they are sorely mistaken. The past two years have only strengthened this workforce’s resolve and solidarity. We are ready for what a strike means – are they?”

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