Striking MASS MoCA Staff Reach a Wage Deal With the Museum

The agreement ends a three-week strike.

Workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art have initiated a strike after management failed to reach a wage-hike deal with the employees’ union. Photo courtesy of MASS MoCA Union

Workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) have reached an agreement with administration, ending a historic three-week strike.

The Mass MoCA union said in a statement that its members voted to ratify a wage agreement that raises the minimum wage and improves working conditions. The workers officially returned to work on March 27. Under the deal, workers will be paid a minimum wage of $18 per hour—just 25 cents shy of the $18.25 wage the workers had sought.

Other terms of the agreement include 3.5 percent across-the-board base pay retroactive to January 1, 2024, and another 3.5 percent increase to base pay that will take effect next year. Average pay is expected to increase by 12.1 percent by the second year of the agreement.

Additionally, workers will now receive time-and-a-half rates for any overtime above 10 hours in a single day and will start receiving time-and-a-half pay for select holidays—New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day—beginning in 2025.

The strike by the MASS MoCA union, formed in April 2021, began March 6 after the 120-member union spent more than five months at the bargaining table with the museum. It is organized under the Local 2110 UAW, an affiliate of the powerful United Auto Workers, which also bargains for workers at cultural institutions including Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim.

The union had argued that salaries had not kept up with inflation and that most workers earned just $33,800 per year, well under the $47,000 annual cost of living for a single person in Berkshire County, where the museum is located on the border with New York. Workers vowed to continue picketing until a wage deal could be reached. During the protest, they forwent their salaries and were supported by a hardship fund that raised nearly $21,000 over three weeks.

The strike is among the longest in the culture sector in United States history—beat by the 2023 strike at the Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York, which lasted for about eight weeks before workers ratified a contract that included an 18 percent pay bump. The Hispanic Society is among the institutions organized under the Local 2110 UAW. In 2022, staff at the Philadelphia Museum of Art conducted a 19-day strike that ended when management reached a deal with the union. However, the union and the museum are now at odds again over the contract’s language surrounding longevity pay.

The MASS MoCA agreement was ratified 20 days after the strike began. It was supported by the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Dropkick Murphys, Massachusetts’s beloved American Irish punk band which celebrated the ratified agreement with the comment, “Way to go,” on social media.

“We would like to thank everyone who donated to our strike hardship fund and all the artists, former MASS MoCA employees, and North Adams community members and organizations who stood in solidarity with us through our 21-day strike,” the union said in a statement. “From donating food to letting us use their restrooms, parking lots and electricity, to joining our picket line in all kinds of weather, to sustaining us with free yoga and helping us print up union T-shirts, we would like to give them an enormous, heartfelt shoutout for their generous support.”

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