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How Art Unions Saw Progress Across 2022

The year 2022 was a significant one for unions in the art world. The wave of unionization that began in 2019 was only accelerated after workers saw the fragility of their employment during the pandemic. Thus, everyone – museum workers, teachers, curators, and artists – chose to stick together in order to demand better terms.

The year began with Art Institute of Chicago workers successfully voting to unionize. This was the first such union of art workers in Chicago. Its success was followed – within 24 hours – with a union vote by the School of Art Institute of Chicago. In May, 200 members of the School of the Art Institution of Chicago followed suit and successfully formed a union. Announcing the vote, they also mentioned the ‘intolerable’ working conditions at the institute.

Protestors from New School

The Baltimore Museum of Art finally went through a successful unionization vote in July, after announcing intentions in 2021. The move came after massive layoffs in other art institutes this year. The vote was praised by all, including the mayor of Baltimore. In September, 90 percent of the union-eligible workers at the Dia Art Foundation successfully voted to unionize with Local 2110 United Auto Workers. More than 100 staff members at multiple Dia locations—including the museum in Beacon, New York, its gallery in Manhattan, as well as outposts in New Mexico and Germany—are now represented after organizing around issues like low wages.

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In October, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union (a union of PMA workers) came to an agreement over wage and employment terms over the next 3 years. The agreement came after a 19-day strike over a salary increase. In December, the part-time faculty at the New School announced the end of their three-week strike.