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Success! Workers at the Denver Art Museum elect their union

Photo: Clay Gregory
Success! Workers at the Denver Art Museum elect their union
By Andrew Fernandez and AFSCME Staff ·
Tags: Momentum

DENVER – Workers at the Denver Art Museum are celebrating their new union.

They won their union election last week with a supermajority of 67% voting to join forces with AFSCME Council 18, making the Denver Art Museum the first unionized art museum in Colorado.

Workers announced their union campaign in January and since then have endured upper management’s intense anti-union campaign. Through Council 18, the workers filed more than a dozen unfair labor practice charges. Now, the more than 200 workers from every department at the museum will have a voice to advocate for a culture that prioritizes employee and visitor experience over revenue.  

"We worked so hard to win our union,” said Trudy Lovato, a gallery host. “One of the best things about this process has been hearing from people in various departments, and learning about their expertise, skills and concerns. I look forward to working together to build a workplace that creates an environment of mutual respect, and every member feeling as valued as they deserve." 

Kit Bernal, a curatorial assistant, emphasized the power of solidarity across departments.

“Our wall-to-wall union recognizes the importance of all of us in making the museum a place where art connects, inspires and empowers,” Bernal said. “I am so honored to get to work with all of my incredible colleagues across the bargaining unit and the museum to build a better present and future for the DAM.” 

Sean Chase, a gallery host, said he’s proud of what the workers have achieved.

“This is a victory for all of us, each and every one, who work at the DAM now, who have worked here in the past, and for those who will work here in the future,” he said. “Democracy starts now!"  

Workers will now shift their focus to a contract campaign, which will seek to address issues like adequate staffing and career advancement, institute a fair disciplinary process, and procure wages that account for experience, tenure and inflation. 

The Denver Art Museum workers won their union election shortly after workers at Colorado’s Jefferson County Public Library System won theirs the same day. Those workers are also part of Council 18.

“Today was a powerful day for Colorado workers. Jefferson County workers have shown the way for the thousands of other county workers across Colorado that they, too, can win a voice on the job to improve their jobs and lives and the services they provide. DAM workers showed incredible perseverance and are an inspiration to cultural workers everywhere who may face aggressive and disgrace anti-union tactics by management,” said Council 18 Executive Director Connie Derr.

The two new Colorado unions are part of AFSCME Cultural Workers United, a national movement of cultural workers at libraries, museums and zoos joining together to negotiate for better pay, working conditions, demand equity and fight for transparency in our workplaces.  AFSCME represents more cultural workers than any other union, including 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.  

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