Workers at the Denver Art Museum Are Unionizing for Better Pay and Workplace Protections

Organizers said a supermajority of 250 workers have already agreed on the formation of the union.

Proposed aerial view of the North Building of the Denver Art Museum at dusk. Courtesy of Fentress Architects and Machado Silvetti.

Hundreds of workers with the Denver Art Museum in Colorado have launched efforts to form a union, seeking better pay and workplace protections. The union drive was launched with a website and letter, noting that the workers intend to form as Denver Art Museum Workers United under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-Cultural Workers United Council 18.

“In recent memory, our staff has navigated economic and cultural challenges, including the closure of the North Building and opening of the Martin Building, departmental downsizing, the pandemic, and continually rising costs of living,” wrote the organizing committee of the DAMWU.

The workers are seeking a base “living wage” that accounts for experience, tenure, and inflation. They also seek increased “communication and transparency” with leadership and more investment in professional development. The pay bump the workers are seeking and the average salary at the museum were not immediately known.

“I support our right to unionize because I believe that our institution is such an important space for community and culture,” curatorial assistant Paula Contreras said in a statement. “However, I don’t believe that this success should come at the cost of our staff and sustainability in the future.”

In a news release, the union said a supermajority of 250 workers have already agreed on the formation of the union, with the museum’s staff heavily impacted by the rising cost of living in Denver.

The organizers are awaiting a response to their request for voluntary recognition of their union by management. If management does not voluntarily recognize the union, the organizers will have to move on to an election process that would “waste taxpayer money.”

“If unionization is the path they choose, the museum will work within that system,” museum spokesperson Andy Sinclair said in remarks to the Denver Post. “The Denver Art Museum prioritizes its employees and their needs and looks forward to learning more about the specific goals of the proposed unionization.”

The union drive has received support from more than a dozen museum members, who wrote a letter to management on behalf of the workers.

“We stand in solidarity with all employees at the Denver Art Museum pursuing a living wage, a more democratic workplace, and the opportunity to excel in an environment that they are passionate about,” the letter reads.

AFSCME spokesman Andrew Fernandez told the Denver Post that the union organizers intentionally chose January 11 to announce their campaign in honor of the Lawrence Textile Mill Strike in Massachusetts in 1912.


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