On Monday, around 150 members of the PMA workers’ union, Local 397, established a picket line at the museum’s entrance. According to PMA Union President Adam Rizzo, the strike came after a one-day warning strike in the middle of September and 15 hours of talks over two days last week.
“We want what we deserve” – Workers Fight for Better Conditions
The union announced the workers will strike until they “get what they deserve” and after their rights are fulfilled. According to their statement and press release from Last Friday, the Union demanded an improvement of wages, better health insurance and paid leave. “We’re fighting for fair pay. A lot of folks at the museum work two jobs, which is pretty unbelievable for an institution with a $60 million a year budget and a $600 million endowment,” Local 397 Union President and PMA employee Adam Rizzo told WHYY.
Rizzo also stated that PMA employees typically receive 20% less pay than those at comparable museums. Despite having one of the largest endowments among US art museums, PMA has not raised salaries since 2019 despite historically high inflation rates. Museum employees are also upset that the museum does not currently provide paid parental leave. According to AAMD data, only 44 percent of museums nationwide offer paid parental leave, which shows this is not uncommon.
Museum Representatives Disappointed by the Protests
The strike comes at an inconvenient time for the Museum, since Sasha Suda, its new director, began her first day on Monday. “We were out here this morning setting up and they were hosting a coffee meet-and-greet for Sasha and senior management right inside,” said Rizzo. “That was disappointing.”
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Although the museum’s representatives recognize the employees’ freedom to protest, they are still upset with the demonstrators’ choice because wages have already increased sufficiently. Rizzo stated that while he was pleased the museum had expanded healthcare eligibility, the entire offer was insufficient. He claims the union is demanding better and more affordable health care for the workforce and that the suggested wage increases barely cover inflation, especially given the staff hasn’t received a rise in three years.
He also stated that during negotiations, the PMA has never stated that it cannot afford the union’s increased requests. “If they told us they couldn’t afford to meet our demands, legally, they would have to open their books to us and they’ve never done that,” said Rizzo. While the union hopes to come to an agreement by the end of the week, members are “prepared to stay out longer if we need to”.