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Philadelphia Museum of Art workers hold one-day strike as warning to management

Photo: Kat Cancio
By Kathleen Cancio ·

Nearly 200 members of AFSCME Local 397 (District Council 47) – the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union (PMAU) – engaged in a one-day strike on Friday to pressure museum management into making serious efforts to improve workers’ wages, health care and parental leave during contract negotiations.

Despite reaching agreements on other issues, workers say progress has slowed significantly in recent months due to management’s refusal to address members’ biggest priorities.

As a result, PMAU members refused to report to work in person or virtually and instead spent the day picketing at various entrances outside the main museum, the Perelman Annex and Rodin Museum. Holding signs that read “Fair Contract Now!” and chanting “What does PMA have to hide?” the group of museum workers were joined by labor allies, Philadelphia City Council members and community supporters who responded, “Workers are exploited inside!” while urging visitors not to cross the picket line.

“I have to work two jobs in order to afford my bills and just to live," said Juliet Vinegra, a PMA worker. "The museum has not come to the table with proposals that actually show fair pay for us. They have come consistently with 2%, which is below cost of living and we have not received raises in years."

Friday's one-day strike comes after PMAU voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike on Aug. 30, just days after filing an unfair labor practice against museum management for allegedly engaging in union-busting tactics. The strike served as a warning to management that PMA Union’s executive board is authorized to call for further action if necessary.

According to Adam Rizzo, a PMA museum educator and president of Local 397, “If museum management does not remedy the unfair labor practice charge and come to the bargaining table ready to make real progress, we are prepared to take further action. We have made it very clear what PMA Board Chair Leslie Anne Miller and COO Bill Peterson can to avoid the disruption of museum operations.”

“We cannot accept a status quo that subjects workers to violations of federal law, wages well below the national average for art museums, and benefits that do not allow workers to support their families,” said Cathy Scott, president of AFSCME District Council 47.

Watch a short video about Friday’s strike.