BOSTON (AP) — Staffers at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts ratified their first employment contract Tuesday, becoming the latest prestigious arts institution to protect workers with a union contract.
The collective bargaining agreement is the first since museum workers voted for United Auto Workers Local 2110 in November 2020, the union and management said in a joint statement.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement on a union contract with the MFA that presents staff with a fairer pay structure and a democratic vote,” Union President Maida Rosenstein said in the statement. “By establishing collective bargaining rights, the MFA worker is helping bring about the necessary systemic changes for museum workers in general.”
The union represents 227 of the museum’s administrative, technical, curatorial and conservation workers.
The agreement increases wages and minimum payments. Workers will get at least 5% on July 1, with some workers getting larger increases. Wages will increase by 3% on July 1, 2023 and again by 3% on July 1, 2024.
The museum has estimated the total cost of the wage changes at 13.5% over the contract’s three-year term.
New York-based UAW Local 2110 represents workers at dozens of cultural and educational institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, museums had to close and lay off workers, and many employees realized they had few legal protections, said Tom Juravich, a professor of sociology and labor science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The Museum of Fine Arts eliminated more than 100 jobs early in the pandemic, about half through voluntary early retirements and half through layoffs, according to a statement at the time.
For years, museums have treated their ranks as servants rather than servants, and more workers have unionized unionized unionized, as Juravich in particular changes with younger employees.
“There’s a new generation moving into the field, and they’re not impressed by the prestige of just working at the best cultural institutions in the world, they have to foot the bills” on substantial student loans.
Juravich said it’s also difficult to justify working for subsistence wages when museum running is well paid, and many of the museum’s trustees are filled with society’s wealthiest elite.
The museum said that over the next three years, in addition to improved benefits for union workers, additional investments have been made in compensation and benefits for all employees.
“Our people make the MFA what it is. They provide the highest level of care for the treasures we have in trust for future generations as we strive to become a museum for all of Boston,” said museum director Matthew Teitelbaum.
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