Philadelphia Museum of Art workers set one-day strike for Friday

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Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art said Thursday that they planned a one-day “warning strike” Friday in an effort to achieve movement in contract negotiations with museum management that have been on-going since October 2020.

Union members said there would be picket lines Friday at the museum’s main building, the Perelman annex across Kelly Drive, and the Rodin Museum. It would be the first time in memory that picketing workers have targeted the art museum.

The action follows the filing of an unfair labor practices grievance by the union in August. Museum management, union leaders said, has taken to hiring temporary or short-term workers in the wake of full-time permanent employees who departed during pandemic related layoffs and buyouts.

» READ MORE: Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have authorized a strike. What does that mean?

Union leaders also cited lack of progress in bargaining over wages and benefits.

Cathy Scott, president of DC Local 47, said the “status quo” at the museum involved “violations of federal law, wages well below the national average for art museums, and benefits that do not allow workers to support their families.” She termed the situation unacceptable.

The art museum Local 397 is affiliated with DC Local 47, which also represents a large number of white-collar public employees in Philadelphia, including workers at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Local 397 president Adam Rizzo, a museum educator, said that “If museum management does not remedy the unfair labor practice charge and come to the bargaining table, we are prepared to take further action.”

In a statement sent to museum supporters Thursday afternoon, museum chief operating officer William Peterson called the union action a disappointment and said the museum will remain open.

“Our managers will be on-site to welcome museum visitors,” he said. Peterson reiterated the museum’s pledge “to negotiate in good faith.”

“From the outset,” he said “we have worked to reach a collective bargaining agreement that is both fair to our staff and responsible in terms of the long-term viability of the museum.” He noted that the management and labor have achieved agreement on 25 issues and continue to meet at the bargaining table.

Last week, Rizzo, the union president said there was no impasse in talks and the union continued to make proposals and to seek resolution of disagreements.

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