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Walters Art Museum workers are heading to a union election after two years

Photo credit: Walters Workers United.
Walters Art Museum workers are heading to a union election after two years
By Kathleen Cancio ·

In spring 2021, workers at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore announced they were forming a union, Walters Workers United.  

Although a supermajority of workers expressed support for a union, museum leadership refused to voluntarily recognize or even meet with workers. Management insisted that workers go through a union election process that would exclude many workers from the bargaining unit.  

Today, workers are glad they held strong in their demand for a wall-to-wall union – one that would include all workers, not just some and exclude the rest – and fought for all departments, including security staff, to be able to vote to join their union.  

On March 27, members of Walters Workers United and management of Walters Art Museum finally reached an election agreement that would allow workers vote for their union through an election conducted by a neutral third party. That’s similar to the process used by Pratt Workers United and the Baltimore Museum of Art Union, who both won union representation through AFSCME.   

The agreement comes after a long and difficult struggle for union recognition that includes a lawsuit workers won against the museum over violations to the Maryland Public Information Act and attempts to pass legislation that would enable Walters workers collective bargaining rights. 

“After so much time and effort, I’m overjoyed and proud to finally have an election agreement. Negotiations between staff and leadership took a lot of work, but I am so glad that we were able to come to agreeable terms that are in the best interest for employees and ultimately for the long-term health of the institution as a whole,” said Will Hays, an associate registrar at the Walters. “I’m really excited for the next steps in this process seeing our election through and then working out a collective bargaining agreement.”  

Will Murray, a lead maintenance technician at the museum, described it as a “long, arduous process.”  

“But we’re in the homestretch now,” he said. “So we’ll see this through until the end. I’ve been with the Walters for close to 25 years now and I’d love for this union to be part of the legacy I leave behind.”  

According to the agreement, the union election for Walters employees will take place this spring.  If successful, approximately 90 workers would win collective bargaining rights and WWU can begin the process of negotiating employees’ first contract with the museum.  

Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3, applauded the tenacity and solidarity of the workers in fighting for their union.  

“We are proud to have stood beside members of Walters Workers United-AFSCME throughout the course of their campaign, and of the fortitude employees of the Walters have shown throughout this process,” said Moran.  

“These workers have held fast and demonstrated they won’t back down from a fight when it comes to advocating for themselves and their co-workers,” he added. “Like so many cultural workers across the country, museum and library workers here in Baltimore are demanding better for themselves and their families, and it is an honor to support them in that struggle.” 


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