During a one-day strike Sept. 16, workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art picketed the renowned institution as a warning to senior management of what will happen if the bosses continue their unfair labor practices.

With 180 members, the PMA Union (Local 397 of AFSCME District Council 47) has been negotiating with museum officials since October 2020. Local 397 filed eight Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board on Aug. 26, charging PMA management with repeatedly violating federal law by engaging in union-busting activity during contract negotiations. On Aug. 30, union members voted to authorize a strike.

“After massive layoffs, years without raises and an ongoing pandemic, museum management expects us to accept meager raises, insufficient paid-parental leave and no improvements to our health care benefits, whatsoever. We won’t,” said Adam Rizzo, Museum Educator and Local 397 President. “PMA Board Chair Leslie Anne Miller and COO Bill Petersen have the power to avert a strike: Start respecting this union; stop acting unilaterally in violation of federal labor law; and come to the table with real responses and a real commitment to reaching a fair resolution.”

Picketing sites included all entrances to the museum’s main building, the Perelman Annex and the Rodin Museum. Local 397 represents workers across nearly all museum departments, including visitor services, retail, education, installations, curatorial, conservation, marketing and development.

President of AFSCME District Council 47 Cathy Scott said: “Our membership would not have authorized a strike if they were not united in these demands. We cannot accept a status quo that subjects workers to violations of federal law, wages well below the national average for art museums and benefits that do not allow workers to support their families.”

— Report and photo by Joe Piette

Joe Piette

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