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Workers at Tacoma, Chicago museums highlight growing organizing momentum

Photo: Field Museum
By Kathleen Cancio ·

Employees of the nation’s cultural institutions have led the way in building power in the workplace in recent years.

They did so in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago – and now workers in Tacoma, Washington, and another Chicago museum are also forming unions through Cultural Workers United – AFSCME.

Staff at Tacoma Art Museum announced their unionization effort on Oct. 17 with AFSCME Council 28/WFSE. Tacoma Art Museum Workers United, or TAM Workers United, is organizing for living wages, safer working conditions, accountability and transparency from management, and the opportunity to raise concerns without fear of retaliation from managers. Workers say they are seeking to become Washington state’s first wall-to-wall union of museum workers, which means it will include employees from all departments.

“The work we do at [Tacoma Art Museum] is crucial to our community,” said Carrie Morton, a visitor services representative. “It is important that museum workers have the tools to advocate for ourselves and our community.”

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Photo: Tacoma Art Museum

Seeking to address similar issues within their institution, workers at Chicago’s Field Museum released a letter on Oct. 13 announcing that they are forming a union, Field Museum Workers United, and affiliating with AFSCME Council 31. In the letter, workers say it’s time for their voices to be heard and respected.

“Through the collective voice of Field Museum Workers United, we will advocate for an equitable, sustainable and transparent workplace for museum employees at every level,” the letter says.

Inspired by their colleagues at the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of Art Institute of Chicago, who made history early this year by voting overwhelmingly to join together and form their union as the Art Institute of Chicago Workers United (Council 31), Field Museum Workers United seeks to represent approximately 330 employees, including collections assistants and technicians, exhibitions preparators, visitor service representatives and more.

From the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union’s historic contract ratification to the Baltimore Museum of Art Union winning their union election by a landslide in July, there has been no shortage in union victories among museum workers.

Cultural Workers United – AFSCME is the premier organizing campaign that is showing workers at museums, libraries, zoos and other cultural institutions how to build power. Workers at two other cultural institutions – the Utica Zoo and Croton Free Library, both in New York state – affiliated with CSEA on Oct. 20.

Show Your Support

To support new unionization efforts in the cultural sector, sign the community support letters using the links below:

Tacoma Art Museum Workers United

Field Museum Workers United

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