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Workers at Denver Art Museum announce union campaign

Photo: Denver Art Museum Workers United
Workers at Denver Art Museum announce union campaign
By AFSCME Staff ·

DENVER – A majority of about 250 workers at the Denver Art Museum announced their intent to form a union with AFSCME Council 18 on Thursday, seeking to become the first museum union in Colorado’s largest city and joining a wave of organizing taking place across the country’s cultural sector.

Denver Art Museum Workers United (DAMWU) seeks to ensure all employees earn living wages, improve management transparency and create better safety procedures, among other issues.

For Trudy Lovato, who works as a gallery host, improving wages is a top priority.

“Denver is a growing city where the cost of living has skyrocketed. Our wages don’t reflect that,” said Lovato.

She believes this is unacceptable for an institution that, according to its stated values, aims to empower people and communities.

“In forming our union, I hope to see the museum live up to its potential of being an amazing place to work and play,” Lovato said.

Transparency and communication were also key issues for workers.

Tei Iuga, a creative and public engagement associate, said, “For our museum to fully realize its potential and truly act as a public good, it has to operate democratically and with accountability to staff and the public.”

She said that training around safety issues has been unclear and sometimes does not even happen.

“A union will make the museum better for everyone — not just for employees, but for the public too,” Iuga said.

Workers officially notified management of their intention to organize at an all staff meeting Thursday morning. They intentionally chose Jan. 11 in honor of labor history in Colorado and beyond. This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre and Jan. 11, 1912, was the first day of the historic Lawrence Textile Mill Strike (also called the Bread & Roses Strike).

Now, management must respond to workers' request for voluntary recognition of their union. According to DAMWU, the union has already achieved supermajority support among staff. Workers say if the museum truly respects their voices, management will recognize their union instead of forcing them to go through an election that would draw out the process and waste money.

Other unions that have received voluntary recognition in the cultural and nonprofit sectors are Academy Museum Workers United in Los Angeles, as well as at Denver cultural institutions the Meow Wolf Workers Collective and nonprofits like the ACLU of Colorado Workers United.

Through its Cultural Workers United campaign, 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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For updates on Denver Art Museum Workers United, visit or follow @DAMWorkersUnited on Instagram.

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