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Please Touch Museum workers overwhelmingly vote to form union through AFSCME

Photo credit: PTM United
Please Touch Museum workers overwhelmingly vote to form union through AFSCME
By AFSCME Council 47 ·
Tags: Momentum

PHILADELPHIA – Workers at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum have formed a union.  

They announced an overwhelming election victory in March, with 85% voting yes to unionize as Please Touch Museum United (PTM United) through AFSCME Local 397 (District Council 47).  

The vote count followed two days of in-person voting administered by the National Labor Relations Board.  

With this win, PTM United joins the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union and Penn Museum Workers United as the newest member of Local 397, which includes museum and cultural workers in southeastern Pennsylvania. Significantly, Please Touch Museum will be one of the few unionized children’s museums in the country.  

Members of PTM United first announced their intent to unionize and requested voluntary recognition from PTM management in January, after seven months of organizing.  

Despite PTM United’s strong showing of interest through signed union membership authorization cards, the museum hired outside legal counsel and made numerous attempts to hinder progress towards an election. Workers persisted and reached an election agreement for a wall-to-wall union – meaning every worker would be part of it – on March 8. 

“We are very excited to welcome Please Touch Museum workers to the AFSCME Council 47 family, and so proud to see the representation of arts and culture workers growing in our council,” said April Gigetts, president of DC 47. “These workers provide our city with just as vital a public service as teachers and librarians do, and they deserve fair compensation and safe working conditions.”  

Scarlett DeLorme, a member of the organizing committee and a visitor experience associate at PTM, celebrated the long awaited historic win.  

[This has] been a labor of love for us since the beginning, and it’s inspiring to know that my colleagues are fighting for me like I’m fighting for them,” said DeLorme. “We’re helping to set a standard for children's museums across the country, and we’re eager to get to bargaining.” 

Anand Ghorpadey, a museum learning educator and member of the PTM United Organizing Committee, said, “This is a victory for every staff member and guest that comes together to impact the lives of our youngest community members. It is also a reminder that, no matter how old an institution is, there is always room for collaborative growth. And we look forward to working together with management to create lasting change at PTM.” 

This marked the fourth museum union victory for the AFSCME Cultural Workers United campaign in March.   

Earlier in the month, workers at the Wexner Center for the Arts won their union with AFSCME Ohio Council 8 a year after announcing their organizing campaign. Nearly 300 Field Museum employees in Chicago voted overwhelmingly in favor of their union with AFSCME Council 31. Also in the Chicago area, workers at the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum announced they’re forming their union through Council 31.  

These workers joined a growing network of over 10,000 museum workers who are gaining a voice on the job after organizing thanks to the Cultural Workers United campaign.  

AFSCME President Lee Saunders welcomed the growing labor momentum among workers in museums, libraries, zoos and other cultural institutions nationwide.  

In a statement, Saunders said, “Cultural workers continue to drive a wave of organizing, and we could not be more excited to be part of this sea change. From community libraries to science centers to children's museums, workers at cultural institutions are transforming their workplaces and ensuring that anyone with a passion for this work can build a career.”  

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