What We're Reading: Will Philly Art Museum Workers’ Strike Victory Push Others To ‘Stay The Course’?

"On Oct. 14, unionized employees at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) achieved a monumental contract victory with museum management, ending a 19-day strike," said Vanessa Taylor for Prism. "The tentative agreement, which runs through June 30, 2025, raised the hourly minimum wage, reduced health care plan costs, provided across-the-board wage increases and paid parental leave, and instituted the museum’s first ever longevity raises. Following this victory, union members are hopeful that their efforts may help reshape the museum industry as a whole."

"The union first formed in 2020, when PMA employees voted overwhelmingly to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Shakerra Grays, the Interactive Project Manager for PMA, said that employees unionized 'in response to physical, verbal, and sexual harassment that went ignored by museum leadership.' One such case included that of a male manager’s harassment of several women on staff."

"Though the PMA union is one of the country’s largest museum unions, management failed to respect it at first, trapping the union in negotiations for two years. This came to a head on Aug. 26, when union leadership filed eight Unfair Labor Practice charges against museum management, accusing the PMA of repeatedly engaging in union-busting activity during contract negotiations. A few weeks later on Sept. 16, union leadership launched their initial warning strike, demanding more reasonable health care costs, parental leave, a minimum wage pay increase to $16.75 an hour, incremental raises, and longevity increases for staff over five years."

"Although the strike is over, union workers want others in the industry to see it as inspiration. 'I hope this strike sends a message to all arts workers that they matter,' Grays said. 'That they deserve to do what they love and be fairly compensated for it … I hope that we’ve shown that no one ever had to settle for less. And no one should do so ever again.' Workers also hope that this victory will pave the way to advocating for systemic change that extends beyond performative diversity and equity initiatives or awkward, out-of-touch ice cream socials."

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