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Showing their solidarity for the PMA Union are (from left) SIU-affiliated UIW National Director Karen Horton-Gennette, SIU Executive Assistant Brittanie Potter, and MTD Administrator Mark Clements.

Even amidst the hubbub of the 2022 AFL-CIO Convention, the MTD found another opportunity to express solidarity with working people at a rally held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) Union, an AFSCME affiliate.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler firing up rally goers

Following the end of convention business on June 14, the AFL-CIO encouraged delegates and guests to join the PMA Union on the famed “Rocky Steps” at the museum’s entrance. MTD Administrator Mark Clements represented the department, standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of trade unionists championing the museum workers’ efforts to secure a fair contract.

Although PMA workers had laid down the foundations to organize as early as 2019, the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized their organizing drive into action. Workers were laid off or furloughed, while the museum underwent ‘restructuring’ without staff input.

Rather than follow the example of other museums that voluntarily recognized employees’ unions, the PMA management instead hired a union-busting law firm. Not even the urging of the Philadelphia City Council persuaded the museum bosses to change course.

The workers voted 181 to 22 in favor of unionizing just days after the museum laid off 20 percent of its staff in late June 2020. As a result, the PMA Union became one of only a few “wall-to-wall” museum unions in the country. Two years later, the PMA management has continued to stonewall the union and a contract has yet to be agreed upon.

The trade unionists gathered on the steps hoping that an overwhelming display of worker power would persuade management to stop stalling in negotiations. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler addressed the PMA Union members at the rally, pledging that they “have the might of 13.5 million workers beside [them] in this fight for a fair contract.”

Officials, staff, and rank-and-file members from several MTD-affiliated unions hit the bricks. AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFT President Randi Weingarten both provided impassioned remarks, as did several PMA Union members. For all those who are interested in supporting the PMA Union workers in their ongoing battles with museum management, donations to the strike fund can be made here.