Philadelphia Museum of Art workers go on strike Monday

More than half of the approximately 350 workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art went on strike Monday, throwing up picket lines at the main building entrances on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and at the entrances to the Perelman Building across Kelly Drive and at the Rodin Museum downstairs. the Parkweg.

Never before has the art museum experienced such a staff loss.

Museum officials said the museum is open and running on its normal schedule (9am-5pm), staffed by managers and non-union workers.

Union leaders, AFSCME DC47, Local 397, called for the strike on Friday, noting that they had negotiated with the museum their first contract since October 2020 without success. Museum employees voted to form a union in July 2020.

“After two years of negotiations, our membership cannot accept any further stagnation and the breakdown of unions,” said Local 397 chairman Adam Rizzo. There are about 180 employees of the art museum who are members of the union.

Rizzo said union leaders and museum management met for about nine hours last Thursday and another five hours on Friday.

“We were able to resolve most of the non-economic issues during those sessions,” he said Monday.

“The real stumbling block was when we started talking about the economic package and the health benefits and things like that,” Rizzo said. “It became clear that the museum didn’t really want to change anything.”

Museum officials said Monday that the museum had offered “significant pay increases” during the negotiating session last week.

In a statement outlining its latest negotiating position, the museum said it had offered workers “wage increases totaling 8.5% over the next 10 months and 11% by July 1, 2024” and a “minimum annual salary for exempt workers of more than 10% higher than the current lowest annual salary of these employees.”

The museum said it had also offered employees four weeks of paid parental leave and new hourly employees became eligible for health benefits more quickly, allowing those employees to receive medical, dental and vision coverage up to 60 days earlier than they can now.

In addition, the museum said its latest offerings included accelerated vacation accrual for hourly employees, a more flexible remote work schedule and job security protections that ensure the museum will not use a temporary employee, temporary employee, subcontractor or volunteer to fire or get leave. . a current union member.

Rizzo said there haven’t been pay increases in three years, even though inflation has accelerated, “so we’re already behind when you add those numbers together.” And, he said, health care benefits posed “a big problem,” which has not been addressed so far. Most of the workers, he said, had a “high deductible” plan, which he described as so expensive that “most people in the museum” feel they can’t afford health care.

Museum officials point out that 90 percent of the care plan is paid for by the museum, which also contributes to the employees’ health savings accounts.

“Well, I’d say tell that to someone who makes $15 an hour, you know, and there’s an awful lot of people here who make $15 an hour,” Rizzo said. “And on top of that, the museum only recently raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

“Our members will not accept a contract that does not bring wages and benefits at the museum to acceptable levels,” DC47 president Cathy Scott said in a statement Friday. “If [museum] CEO Leslie Anne Miller and COO Bill Petersen think we will accept less if they delay this process long enough, they are seriously mistaken. The past two years have only strengthened the determination and solidarity of this workforce. We are ready for what a strike means; are they?”

In a statement Monday, the museum said it “remains committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement”. A museum spokesperson says that a provisional agreement has already been reached on 25 cases.

Expressing frustration at what they characterized as the museum’s lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, museum workers called a one-day warning strike on Friday, September 16. The museum remained open, but the workers were supported by the support they received for the action.

The union and the museum will have another negotiating session on Friday, union leaders said.

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