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Massachusetts art museum workers schedule 1-day strike

The workers, citing low pay and job insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic, formed the union early last year.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. Karen Callan


NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) — Unionized workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, frustrated with the progress of contract negotiations, have authorized a one-day strike for later this week.

The workers at the North Adams museum, commonly referred to as MASS MoCA, have scheduled a strike and picket outside the museum from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, according to a statement Monday.

“We have asked our members to strike because Mass MoCA has not bargained in good faith on a fair contract for the employees who make it so successful,” Maro Elliott, the museum’s manager of institutional giving and a member of the union’s negotiating committee, said in a statement. “We want an agreement with Mass MoCA that will create a more accessible, equitable and just workplace.”

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The union, affiliated with the United Auto Workers Local 2110, represents about 100 full- and part-time workers, including curators, educators, administrative staff, visitors services, custodial and other workers.

The workers, citing low pay and job insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic, formed the union early last year, joining the staff of other renowned museums who have unionized, including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The museum will remain open during the one-day strike, with managers filling in at key posts, a spokesperson said.

“While we respect our employees’ right to strike as a means of expressing their views, we are also disappointed in their decision, given the positive and collaborative environment that we have worked to foster during our collective bargaining process with the UAW,” museum spokesperson Jenny Wright said in an email.

The average wage for unionized workers at the museum is $17.30 per hour, according to the union. The union wants a minimum hourly rate of $18 in a contract’s first year and raises over the next two years bringing that to about $20 per hour. The museum is offering a $16 per hour minimum with no guaranteed increases in 2023 and 2024, the union said.

In a social media post, the union asked people planning to visit the museum on Friday not to cross the picket line and to reschedule their visits. The union has also filed unfair labor practice charges against the museum with the National Labor Relations Board, citing what it calls “bad faith bargaining.”

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