Workers at Art Institute of Chicago Vote to Unionize

Riding a wave of unionization swelling over museums across the country, workers at the Art Institute of Chicago voted to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The vote was 142-44, the bargaining unit said, with 20 votes “not counted due to management challenges.”

On its website on Tuesday, the union wrote, “Now, as a union, we will take the next steps to shape our future at the museum, gathering in listening sessions, surveying needs to inform bargaining priorities, and nominating and electing our bargaining team.”

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The Art Institute union will be the first group of its kind at a major museum in Chicago. It comes amid a larger push by workers in institutions across the U.S. Earlier this week, workers at the Jewish Museum in New York announced a push to unionize. Similar efforts are also underway at the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

“As promised from the start, we fully respect our employees’ decision to join a union,” a representative for the Art Institute of Chicago said in a statement. “The museum intends to enter into good faith bargaining with AFSCME to negotiate an initial collective bargaining agreement that best meets the needs of all parties involved while allowing us to continue to deliver on our mission.”

When they first begin efforts to unionize last summer, workers at the Art Institute that they were seeking greater wage equity and safer working conditions. “Though concerns about wages, workloads, and working conditions are not new to the Art Institute, the financial and social uncertainties of the past year have brought these issues to a head,” the letter reads. Among their stated goals was to elevate “the experiences and voices of BIPOC staff” in an attempt to grapple with the Art Institute’s “colonialist legacy.”


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