A Google spreadsheet that has gone viral nationally may come in handy as the security staff at the Frye Art Museum prepares to negotiate its first contract after overwhelmingly voting last week to form the Art Workers Union.
“Art and museum workers around the country are organizing because without a change we can't afford to keep working in the field we love. We encourage other Seattle museum workers to take a bold step forward and organize their workplaces."
Efforts to unionize at the Frye began earlier in June. Workers at the museum had alleged that the wages they were being paid were too low for their city and unequal to the rates for positions at similar art institutions. The Frye previously said it would not recognize the union.
… Instead of recognizing the security workers' right to unionize, the employees will hold an election, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, on June 18 to decide whether or not a majority of the employees want to form a union. This allows management a bit more time to try and "inform" (read: dissuade) workers from officially joining. According to security staff, CEO Joseph Rosa personally handed out "informational" packets in plain manila envelopes to the people who were working yesterday in an attempt to get them to vote against their union …
… On Thursday, according to workers at the Frye, the museum responded to the calls for the union by distributing literature that presented information about the difficulties of joining and operating a union. Frye security guards said that the museum’s CEO, Joseph Rosa, handed out pamphlets to employees that featured a set of questions and answers related to the union. One question on the sheet is “Is the Museum happy with how things are now?” …
… “We organized the Art Workers Union out of commitment to the people that make the museum so great: all the visitors who appreciate it every day,” security guard Sander Moberg said. “The Frye’s security staff is mostly made up of artists and folks who studied art. We know what that level of knowledge and insight can bring to our visitors’ experience.”
.. “A lot of these museums have spent millions of dollars on projects while claiming they don’t have the money to support their most essential staff — the staff that keeps the institutions running on a day-to-day basis,” John Edens, a security services officer at the Frye. “A lot of museum workers have gotten really tired of the excuse that the place they’re dedicating themselves to simply can’t afford them.”
… Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant, city council candidate Shaun Scott, and a crowd of around forty people gathered at the museum entrance last Friday to demand union recognition from the institution. Sawant voiced her support for the AWU and promised that her office would support their fight for “dignity, good pay, and respect at work, and for their right to housing affordability in Seattle.”