Milwaukee Art Museum workers petition administrators, demanding pay rise and first union contract

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Workers at the Milwaukee Art Museum call on leaders to consolidate a first union contract.

Last updated on October 29, 2021 at 1:45 p.m.

Milwaukee Museum of Art workers petitioned its board of directors this week in letters calling on leaders to raise wages and consolidate a first union contract.

The letters, which were sent in anticipation of MAM’s annual membership meeting on Thursday, come nearly a year after the museum workers union was accredited. election with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

A group of more than 70 employees is engaged in the first contract negotiations since February. In a letter released publicly on Wednesday, the group called on administrators to support “workers’ desire for fair and decent job security; career development; increased access to health insurance; diversity and equity in the workplace; and enhanced health and safety protections.

In response to the letter, the museum said in an emailed statement that leaders were working with union representatives to collaborate on a deal.

“While we cannot comment on the ongoing negotiations with the union, we agree that Museum staff and their contributions are an important part of achieving the Museum’s mission and strategic direction,” the statement said.

The workers’ letter said the majority were taken on leave in 2020 and 2021, and 40% were earning less than $ 14.15 an hour – the current living wage for a single adult in Milwaukee County with no dependents, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. Almost all positions in the bargaining unit are paid below the median salary for their positions, according to surveys from national associations, according to the group.

“We ask Museum officials to recognize that salaries at the Museum have been below average long before the present time. The museum’s financial solvency cannot be assumed by employees by paying wages below the median and below life, ”the group said.

Many museum departments have been hit hard by the recent departures, including design, curatorial, development and frontline staff. The museum will have a hard time recruiting and retaining a diverse staff if it does not increase salaries, employees say.

“By counting only the employees covered by the contract, the museum has lost more than 120 cumulative years of experience in the past four months,” the letter said. “For the museum to be successful and continue its important work, change is needed now.”

The museum, in an emailed statement, acknowledged that this was an “unprecedented moment for the job market,” which affected MAM and other companies.

“Yet during this uncertain time, the Museum has been successful in recruiting new talent and expertise that feeds into our mission in areas such as human resources, community dialogue, information systems, design, education and development. development, to name a few. the statement said.

MAM employees are among the workers of several businesses in the region over the past year continue organizing.

A group of workers from Colectivo Coffee, based in Milwaukee, recently unionized with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 494. In August, the National Labor Relations Board completed the vote count, Colectivo workers approving a proposal to unionize by a vote of 106 to 99. vote.

In September, the Bounce Milwaukee entertainment venue and restaurant reopened after an 18-month closure as a union store after its owners granted union representation to its employees through the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Organization.

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