Workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art recently announced plans to form a union, joining a nationwide wave of workers pushing for better working conditions in cultural institutions.
The organizers intend to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local council 67.
According to their mission statement, the organizers intend to “build a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable institution and change the long-standing cultural canon of privilege” at the museum.
The organizers are calling for job security, fair wages, input on decisions that impact workers, accountability on behalf of management and administration, manageable workloads, and safe working conditions.
A report by Cultural Workers United, a program run by AFSCME, found that cultural workers who were part of unions experienced 28% fewer job cuts than workers at non-unionized workplaces.
Alex Lei, a gallery officer and union organizer, was compelled to organize out of safety concerns regarding the pandemic, he said in an AFSCME blog post.
When BMA decided to re-open during the pandemic, gallery officers like Alex Lei weren’t part of the conversation. Without a union, the museum didn’t feel the need to consult staff on their needs/concerns. This is why we organize! #bmaunion #baltimoremuseumofart #FrontlineWorkers pic.twitter.com/LBT4L7m5wj
— Baltimore Museum of Art Union (@BMAUnion) September 29, 2021
“When management decided to reopen after closing due to the pandemic, those of us working front of house weren’t really part of the conversation and didn’t know what to expect,” Lei said, “We were told to come back and at the time it wasn’t clear that the safety protocols in place were enough to ensure our protection.”
The 36 organizers informed museum officials of their effort to organize earlier this week, and are asking the museum to voluntarily recognize the union.