PORTLAND – The outcome of an organizing vote this month by 23 employees of the Portland Museum of Art remains unknown pending an appeal from museum management to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The postal election was held to decide whether employees should join UAW Local 2110 of the technical, office and professional union. New York-based Local 2110 represents educational and cultural institutions in New York and New England.
The ballots were due to be compiled on December 22, but Local 2110 president Maida Rosenstein said they “were seized instead of being counted because the museum formally appealed the decision of the labor council “.
Initially, 70 museum employees, including curators, registrars and educational staff, filed a petition to unionize with the NLRB. The September petition cited low wages and poor job security. The board ruled in November that 23 of the employees, the museum’s “gallery ambassadors” who provide education and interpretation of the exhibits to visitors, had the right to form a union.
“We continue to follow procedures established by the National Labor Relations Board in processing ballots at this point,” Graeme Kennedy, director of strategic communications and public relations for the museum, told Forecaster on Dec. 27. “We asked for review of a part of the unit’s decision that we sincerely believe to be wrong – specific to the responsibilities of gallery ambassadors with respect to the safety of our visitors and our works – and look forward to news from the board of directors about the request. ”
The museum, according to the NLRB ruling, sees gallery ambassadors as having a security role and therefore should not be part of a union representing other types of workers. The council said the ambassadors were not security guards.
Rosenstein said that typically such demands are never heard by the labor committee and are dismissed, which she hopes will happen in this case so that the outcome of the vote can be certified.
Kennedy told Forecaster in November that the “Portland Museum of Art cares deeply about its staff and its community and in no way seeks to delay or prevent a vote on organizing.”
“We have a bit of a bump in the road because of the pull,” said Michaela Flint, gallery ambassador. “But I hope the voices of museum workers will be heard. As workers, we have the right to a fair and uninterrupted vote.
Rosenstein said that if a union had been in place, workers would have had bargaining power when recently told they were “essentially on leave” for the month of January because the museum was closing to the public because of it. of the coronavirus.
Flint said the temporary shutdown gave her “a glimpse of what it’s like to have help from a union,” she said.
“They offered mutual aid, an unemployment briefing, carpooling and grocery delivery,” she said. “Local 2110 went above and beyond for the museum workers. They even offer help to those who oppose the union.
Kennedy said museum management is awaiting the outcome of the election and looks forward to “continuing to work in partnership with our staff for PMA’s mission rooted in diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.”
“Throughout this process, we have remained deeply committed to the institutional values of transparency and mutual respect informed by our staff,” he said. “The election ensures that all voices are heard and we will work in good faith with all employees to ensure a strong, dynamic and sustainable PMA.”
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