In a vote of 133 to 14, the staff at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has voted to form a union. Employees from more than 30 departments, including curatorial, conservation, development, visitor and member services, and IT, participated in the vote.
MFA employees will join the United Auto Workers’ union (UAW), which also hosts staffers at the Museum of Modern Art and New Museum in New York, as well as the ACLU. UAW also represents other groups in the Boston area, including Harvard graduate students and attorneys with Greater Boston Legal Services.
Museum staff will now move toward bargaining with the MFA on a contract.
“There’s a great swell of interest in unionization among museum workers,” Maida Rosenstein, president of UAW Local 2110, to which MFA employees now belong, said in a phone interview. “It’s very inspiring. I’ve been in our union for 30 years. We’ve always represented employees at Museum of Modern Art, but to see what has grown, from being one of the few museum unions to so many more, is really fantastic.”
In an announcement, the union said it was fighting for “diversity, opportunities for advancement and fair compensation, job and benefits security, and support of staff with care responsibilities.”
“We cannot call ourselves a world-class museum until all of our employees are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect,” Kat Bossi, a staffer in the exhibitions department, added in the announcement.
The movement for the union has been ongoing since summer 2019, and ballots were tallied under the watch of 20 observers during a public Zoom call on Friday.
“This election was important for our staff and for the MFA as an institution,” MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement. “We have said throughout this process that above all, we support our employees’ right to make this decision and we want to ensure all voices are heard. We are pleased that the election played out smoothly and fairly, and we are committed to working with the union moving forward.”
In just the past two years, art museums nationwide, from the Guggenheim in New York to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, have had staff unionization efforts.
Employees, such as those at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), have looked to organizations such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees for support. At the PMA, employees called for COVID-19 safety measures, as well as protection from harassment.