Frustrated with ongoing contract negotiations with management, unionized MASS MoCA workers will strike Friday

The work stoppage marks the first major action by the union, which formed last April to address grievances from employees at the sprawling art museum.

“A living wage is one of the most important issues we are fighting for in this contract,” Maro Elliott told WAMC. “Currently the museum is offering a minimum of $16 per hour, and we know that minimum is not a living wage for our members. We are offering a minimum of $18 per hour in the first year of our contract, and we’d like to see that minimum increase to around $20 an hour in the last year of our contract.”

Elliott is the museum’s institutional donations manager and a member of the union’s organizing and bargaining committees.

“We cite the Economic Policy Institute and their Family Budget Calculator in our decision-making for this range of minimums and the calculator indicates that to live modestly in Berkshire County, a single person with no children would need to earn approximately $40,000 per year,” Elliott said. “So we are working to ensure that our union members have a living wage and can live in Berkshire County and work comfortably at the museum.”

Elliott says the union is fighting to ensure job security and proper safety and health coverage for workers.

“We seek to maintain the existing benefits provided by the museum, including health insurance,” the union representative said. “And we are also fighting for a fair and simple grievance and arbitration process. The proposal that management has made is unnecessarily complicated, and Local 2110 has really solidified an effective process that is part of many their contracts with other cultural organizations.

Frustrated with the state of their ongoing negotiations with MASS MoCA, the union’s 100 or so members will strike at the end of the week.

“On Friday we will be picketing outside the museum from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and hopefully a large crowd of supporters will join us,” Elliott said. “And we’ve already had a wonderful and overwhelming response from the community in support of our efforts. And we can’t wait to see everyone there, and if people can’t make it to the strike, we hopefully they can send letters of support and consider donating to our workers fund, which we are setting up to support those workers who sacrifice a day’s pay to go on strike.

The union is asking visitors to postpone any visit to the museum on Friday in solidarity with the workers.

MASS MoCA released a statement to WAMC, which said in part:

“While we respect our employees’ right to strike as a way to express their opinions, we are also disappointed with their decision, given the positive and collaborative environment we have worked to foster during our bargaining process. collective with the UAW. MASS MoCA management negotiated in good faith with the UAW to achieve a fair contract for both parties. Throughout the negotiations, we have always demonstrated a willingness to listen and genuinely take into account the union’s demands.

Elliott says that’s not how the union sees it.

“This statement goes against my experience of dealing with the museum,” she told WAMC. “We as a union have already filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and the decision was in favor of the union. We have since filed other unfair labor practice charges as well. So, unfortunately, we didn’t find the negotiations as productive as MASS MoCA portrays them.

Here is MASS MoCA’s full statement on Friday’s strike:

While we respect our employees’ right to strike as a way to express their opinions, we are also disappointed with their decision, given the positive and collaborative environment we have strived to foster during our bargaining process. collective with the UAW.

MASS MoCA management negotiated in good faith with the UAW to achieve a fair contract for both parties. Throughout negotiations, we have consistently demonstrated a willingness to listen and genuinely consider union demands – and when their proposals have provided a positive employee experience and supported our museum culture of teamwork, of collaboration and excellence, we welcomed and worked with these objectives. As a result, we have made significant progress towards concluding a contract and we look forward to returning to the bargaining table to continue our negotiations.

Here is the union’s full press release on the strike:

Unionized MASS MoCA employees voted 96% to engage in a one-day work stoppage on August 19, 2022. Employees will picket the Museum all day and ask visitors to show their support for a fair contract for staff.

The employees’ union, part of UAW Local 2110, was formed in April 2021 and has been negotiating the first union contract since last summer.

“We have asked our members to strike because MASS MoCA failed to negotiate in good faith a fair contract for the employees who make it successful,” said Maro Elliott, head of institutional giving and member of the bargaining committee. of the union. “We want an agreement with MASS MoCA that will create a more accessible, fair and just workplace.”

The average wage in the bargaining unit is $17.30 an hour and two-thirds of the unit earn less than $15.50 an hour. According The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator to live modestly in Berkshire County, a single childless person must earn $40,000 a year. The union is asking for a minimum hourly rate of $18 an hour for the first year of the contract and increases in 2023 and 2024 that would bring staff closer to $20 an hour by the end of the contract. The Museum offers a minimum of $16 per hour and no guaranteed increases in 2023 and 2024.

“Many of us live locally in North Adams. By raising hourly rates to something more livable, MASS MoCA would not only support its employees, but help uplift the community,” said Isabel Twanmo, a box office representative. office who worked at MASS MoCA. since 2018 and sits on the union’s bargaining committee.

Local 2110 filed unfair labor practice charges against MASS MoCA with the National Labor Relations Board, citing the Museum’s bad faith bargaining. Earlier this summer, MASS MoCA was forced to settle an initial charge filed by the union over its refusal to provide a regular annual raise to union employees after the union vote. The Museum was ultimately forced to grant the increases retroactively and after public notice to that effect. The union filed another charge when the Museum promised additional raises to individual employees if they convinced the union to lower its wage demands.

“Throughout months of bargaining, MASS MoCA representatives have been hostile to our union, telling us that the arts and artists come first. We all love MASS MoCA but we also have to live,” Elliott said.

In April 2021, MASS MoCA staff voted overwhelmingly to unionize with UAW Local Lodge 2110. The bargaining unit includes approximately one hundred full-time and part-time employees who work as educators, curators, custodians, museum attendants, ticketing staff, art makers. , technicians and other administrative and professional staff. UAW Local 2110 is a technical, clerical and professional union that represents many museums and cultural institutions in the Northeast, including the Museum of Modern Art, MFA, Boston, Portland Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and many other nonprofit and educational institutions.

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