Unionized workers at MASS MoCA plan one-day strike for Friday

MASS MoCA opened two decades ago in the city of North Adams. (Beth J. Harpaz/AP)
MASS MoCA, in the city of North Adams. (Beth J. Harpaz/AP)

Unionized workers at North Adams' Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, frustrated with the progress of contract negotiations, have authorized a one-day strike for later this week.

The MASS MoCA workers have scheduled a strike and picket outside the museum from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, according to a statement released Monday.

“We've been in negotiations now for almost a year and we decided to go on strike because of a lack of progress at the table and the museum's failure to bargain in good faith,” Maro Elliott, the museum's manager of institutional giving and a member of the union’s bargaining committee, said in an interview. She described the museum’s bargaining tactics as “antagonistic.”

“By saying MASS MoCA is bargaining in bad faith, the union is saying that MASS MoCA is intentionally and knowingly sabotaging the legal bargaining process,” museum spokesperson Jenny Wright said in an email. “Considering the creativity and care MASS MoCA leadership has put into developing proposals that are innovative, equitable, and address the root causes of employees’ concerns—whether they’re represented by the union or not—this characterization is not only disappointing, it's incorrect.”

The union, affiliated with the United Auto Workers Local 2110, represents about 100 full- and part-time workers, including curators, educators, administrative staff, visitors services, custodial and other workers.

The workers, citing low pay and job insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic, formed the union early last year, joining the staff of other renowned museums who have unionized, including Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The museum will remain open during the one-day strike, with managers filling in at key posts, a spokesperson said.

Two-thirds of unionized workers at the museum make less than $15.50 per hour, according to the union. The union wants a minimum hourly rate of $18 in the contract’s first year and raises over the next two years bringing that to about $20 per hour. The museum is offering a $16 per hour minimum with no guaranteed increases in 2023 and 2024, the union said.

“For economic and budgetary reasons, the museum cannot commit to a guarantee of substantial multi-year wage increases at this time,” Wright said.

In a social media post, the union asked people planning to visit the museum on Friday not to cross the picket line and to reschedule their visits.

“They have made it seem as though there needs to be a choice made between supporting programming and the artists, and supporting workers, which I think is a very unfair comparison to be making,when the workers are the people who are helping to create the art, interpret it and present it,” Elliott said. “We deserve as much support from the museum as the artists do.”

With reporting from The Associated Press.

This article was originally published on August 16, 2022.


Amelia Mason Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.



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