More than half of the approximately 350 workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art went on strike Monday, throwing picket lines at the entrances to the main building on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and at the entrances to the Perelman Building across Kelly Drive and at the Rodin Museum below. Parkway.
Never before has the Art Museum seen such a staff strike.
Museum officials said the museum is open and operating according to its usual schedule (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and staffed by non-union managers and employees.
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 workers voted for unions in July of 2020.
“After two years of negotiations, our membership cannot accept any more procrastination and union busting,” said Adam Rizzo, president of Local 397. About 180 art museum employees are members of the union.
Rizzo said union leaders and museum management met for about nine hours last Thursday and five more hours on Friday.
“We were able to clarify like most non-economic issues” in those sessions, he said on Monday.
“The real stumbling block was when we started talking about the economic package and health care benefits and things like that,” Rizzo said. “It became clear that the museum was not ready to move forward with anything at all.”
Museum officials said Monday that the museum offered “significant wage increases” at last week’s negotiating session.
In a statement summarizing its latest negotiating position, the museum said it offered workers “a wage increase totaling 8.5% over the next 10 months and 11% by July 1, 2024” and “a minimum annual salary for exempt employees of more than 10% above the lowest salary.” annual for these employees.
The museum said it also offered employees four weeks of paid parental leave and accelerated eligibility for hourly health benefits for new employees, allowing those employees to get medical, dental and vision coverage 60 days earlier than they can today.
Additionally, the museum said its most recent offering included accelerated vacation entitlement for hourly employees, a more flexible remote work schedule, and job security protections that ensure the museum will not use a temporary employee, temp, subcontractor, layoff or furlough volunteer. A current union employee.
Rizzo said there have been no salary increases for three years, even with inflation accelerating, “so we’re really behind when you add those numbers.” He said healthcare benefits were a “big problem” that had yet to be addressed. He said most workers were on a “high deductible” plan, which he described as too expensive “most people in the museum find” that they can’t afford health care.
Museum officials noted that the museum pays 90 percent of the health care plan, which also contributes to employee health savings accounts.
“Well, I would say for someone who makes $15 an hour, you know, and there are a lot of people who work here who make $15 an hour,” Rizzo said. Furthermore, the museum recently raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Our members will not accept a contract that does not bring the Museum’s pay and benefits to an acceptable level,” DC47 President Cathy Scott said in a statement Friday. “if [museum] Chairman Leslie Ann Miller and COO Bill Petersen think we’d accept less if they continued this process long enough, they are deeply mistaken. The past two years have strengthened the resolve and solidarity of this workforce. We are ready for what it means to strike. are they?”
The museum said in a statement on Monday that it “remains committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement.” A museum spokesperson said a preliminary agreement had already been reached on 25 issues.
Museum workers, who have expressed frustration with what they describe as the museum’s lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, called a one-day warning strike on Friday, September 16. .
Union leaders said the union and the museum held another negotiating session on Friday.