Philadelphia Museum of Art Union Says Management Will Renege Ratified Contract

Unionized employees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) have accused senior management of backtracking on salary increases outlined in their first contract, ratified last October after two years of tense negotiations and a three-week strike.

Today, the PMA union shared via Instagram a petition calling on PMA director and CEO Sasha Suda and General Counsel Al Suh to honor the contract’s agreed upon terms. The group has also filed a grievance against the leaders.

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“Now, days before this contract provision is scheduled to take effect [Suda] and [Suh] have confirmed that they intend to renege the agreement. They intend to only award a pay bump on an employee’s fifth, tenth, twentieth anniversary of employment,” the Instagram post reads. For example, it continued, an individual who has worked at the museum for 25 years will “never receive a longevity increase, while someone whose fifth anniversary falls within the term of the contract will receive $500 or $250 added to their base pay rate.”

Some 180 PMA employees voted to unionize in August 2020 amid a swell of labor actions at cultural institutions across the country. The PMA Union, an affiliate of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 47 and comprised of 180 workers, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract last year, ending a 19-day strike. Negotiations had stalled on the issue of salaries, with the union rejecting the museum’s initial offer of wage increases totaling 8.5 percent over the next 10 months and 11 percent by July 1, 2024.

But Rizzo is now back at the negotiating table, and the museum has added another controversy to its growing docket. As ARTnews‘s Alex Greenberger reported at the time, the vote came in the wake of major turmoil at the museum stemming from allegations of mismanagement, sexual harassment, and discrimination, in addition to the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Like most museums in America in 2020, the PMA terminated a portion of its workforce—85 employees, in this case—and struggled to respond appropriately to the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. In a letter to its staff, Timothy Rub, then museum’s director, and president Gail Harrity used the phrase “every individual life matters,” spurring a missive from five Black employees that alleged leadership of a “lack of compassion and empathy.” 

The PMA has yet to comment on the union’s protest over the late-hour counter to the contract provisions.  

In that post, the union said that the new terms are “not only nonsensical,” but “will have the opposite effect of the intent of the provision. Instead of rewarding employees equitably and fairly for their service, management will be causing even greater inequity and chaos to prevail in the PMA pay structure.”


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