Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art went on an indefinite strike Monday after two years of failed negotiations, demanding higher wages and health care benefits.
Over 150 members of the Local 397 union — which represents the PMA workers — formed a picket line at the museum’s entrance on Monday, according to Artnet News. In a PMA Union press release last Friday, the union announced that the workers would remain on strike until the museum management meets the union's demands. However, the museum is currently still open to visitors, WHYY reported.
According to the PMA statement, top issues for the union include improving wages and providing affordable health insurance.
“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.
The union, which operates under the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, has been crowdfunding through social media since the summer to prepare for a strike, according to The Art Newspaper. The fund allows workers on strike to receive compensation despite losing wages.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the union held a one-day “warning strike” last Friday, hoping to pressure the museum’s management. Nearly 200 workers representing almost every museum department joined.
“Our membership cannot accept further stalling and union-busting,” Rizzo said in the press release.
Rizzo added to WHYY that PMA workers are paid 20% less on average than workers at peer museums. PMA employees voted to unionize in July of 2020, and negotiations for the union’s first contract have been ongoing since the fall of 2020.
“We are disappointed that the union has chosen to strike, but we remain focused on reaching a fair and appropriate contract,” a PMA spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday ahead of the one-day strike, according to the Inquirer.
Museum management said progress has been made in negotiations, with parties coming to an agreement “on more than 25 substantive issues,” according to WHYY. The museum offered an 8.5% wage increase by July 2023 and 11% by July 2024, job security protections, and four weeks of paid parental leave.
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,” Rizzo told The Art Newspaper.