Senator Warren Backs MASS MoCA Strike as It Enters Second Week

A separate wage dispute is also unfolding at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art enter their second week of strike action. Photo courtesy of MASS MoCA Union.

A union strike initiated by workers of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has ended its first week without a labor deal.

“It has officially been a week of picketing and we still haven’t heard a word from management!” the MASS MoCA union said in a statement on social media, pledging to continue picketing until a contract can be reached. “They know our phones are on and we’re available to bargain!”

The strike by the MASS MoCA union, formed in April 2021 and organized under the Local 2110 UAW, began March 6 after the 120-member union spent more than five months at the bargaining table with the museum. Workers are forgoing pay as they seek a wage hike from a starting hourly rate of $16.25 per hour to $18.25 per hour.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed support for the union, writing on social media that “museum management should negotiate with union workers in good faith for a fair deal.”

Another supporter of the workers said on Instagram that the museum “has a lot of nerve” letting the picketing go on for a week. And the new union of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has expressed support with their MASS MoCA counterparts online.

MASS MoCA has issued a statement stating that it remains open, though Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s virtual reality experiences, To the Moon and Chalkroom, are closed. The museum argued that it made an offer of a 3.5 percent salary hike across the board on February 20, which would have increased the minimum hourly wage to $17.25.

“This minimum wage proposal is higher than any state-mandated minimum wage across the country, and is consistent with MASS MoCA’s prioritization of wage and equity increases that have resulted in a 39.6 percent growth since 2018,” the museum said.

Kristy Edmunds, the museum’s director, added that she felt disappointed that the union rejected its wage hike proposal despite implementing other equity increases “at every level” in the past three years. “At this post-pandemic juncture, we are building a future of financial resilience—including significant investments in our people—and cannot agree to contract terms that will diminish our ability to do so holistically,” she said.

The image shows a group of people, presumably workers, standing outside on a sidewalk near a brick building and a large metal gate, possibly part of an industrial or institutional facility. They are holding protest signs indicating a labor strike. Several signs say "UAW ON STRIKE" in bold, capitalized letters on a white background with a blue border, representing the United Automobile Workers, a labor union. One sign, which stands out because of its yellow background and hand-written style, says "WE DESERVE A FAIR CONTRACT." The individuals are dressed for cool weather. From left to right: the first person is wearing a hat, a red backpack, a purple jacket, and jeans; the second person has a white beard, glasses, and is dressed in a purple jacket and gray pants; the third person, who is holding the yellow sign, is wearing a light brown jacket, dark pants, and glasses; the fourth person is in a gray hoodie and dark pants; the fifth is in a blue jacket and cap; the person next to them is partially obscured but seems to be wearing a dark jacket; and the last person on the right is wearing a black cap, dark jacket, and jeans. The setting looks overcast and the presence of the group suggests they are engaged in a demonstration or picket line related to a labor dispute.

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

Not long after MASS MoCA workers went on strike, staff at the Philadelphia Museum of Art staged a protest during a quarterly all-staff meeting, calling attention to the fact that a dispute over their 2022 contract remains unresolved. The protest was reported by the Art Newspaper to have occurred on March 7.

PMA workers conducted a 19-day strike in October 2022 that ended when management reached a deal with the union. However, the union and the museum are now at odds over the contract’s language surrounding longevity pay. The union believes that the contract allows all employees who work more than 25 hours a week to receive a pay bump of $500 for every five years they have been employed. Those who work less than 25 hours per week could receive raises of $250.

Amanda Bock, an assistant curator of photographs at the museum and the union’s vice president, told TAN that the museum’s interpretation of the contract is “nonsensical.”

“Their interpretation results in a system where people with more than 20 years of service have too much longevity for longevity pay increases,” Bock said. “It’s a system where two people do the same work, but the least-senior of the two gets a pay increase first. It’s taking a compensation structure that was already deeply flawed and making it worse.”

The PMA dispute is now heading to arbitration.

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