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New union ratifies contract with MFA

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
New union ratifies contract with MFA
Museum of Fine Arts employees ratified their first union contract with leadership in June. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

For 18 months tensions have been high at the Museum of Fine Arts where more than 200 employees, represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2110, negotiated with the institution on contract renewals. On June 28 the employees ratified what will be their first union contract with the museum.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement on a union contract with the MFA that will provide a more equitable compensation structure and a democratic voice for the staff,” said Maida Rosenstein, President of Local 2110 UAW. The agreement includes raises in wages and minimum pay rates that began with at least a 5% increase on July 1. Many employees will see more than that. Wages will increase again each year through 2024 with some employees reaching as high as a 15% increase during the three-year period.

The negotiations were not without challenges. In November 2021 the museum workers held a one-day strike to raise attention to the cause, but the effort to negotiate fair employment terms at the museum dates back much earlier. In 2016 a beloved veteran museum guard was terminated from the museum after a 15-year tenure due to a dispute about vacation days. This fueled existing unrest among the guards and led to protests and tense negotiations with the museum.

The museum guards are represented by the Museum Independent Security Union. This new union formed in 2020 and is the first to represent employees across a large number of departments including front-facing staff, part-time educators and employees in administrative, technical, curatorial and conservation departments.

“By establishing collective bargaining rights, the MFA staff is helping to bring about necessary systemic change for museum workers in general,” says Rosenstein. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the MFA, and look forward to a good working relationship with museum leadership based on mutual respect and dedication to the MFA.”

The union formation was spurred by layoffs and furloughs at the museum as a response to COVID-19, but it’s also the start of steps towards more equitable working conditions in the culture sector at large. This acts as an internal extension of the inclusivity, equity and fair treatment initiatives the museum has been implementing for their visitors.

“From the beginning, we believed that together we could reach a fair, equitable, and sustainable contract,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the MFA’s Ann and Graham Gund Director. “We are proud to reach this agreement and to make this important investment in compensation and benefits across our entire staff.”