As the calls for greater transparency in museums gain momentum, more and more workers in the industry are seeking to form unions of their own. The latest to join them was the Marciano Art Museum in Los Angeles.
Around six dozen part-time employees of the MAF are trying to form a union for themselves. Most of these employees are the visitor services associates that take care of the people who visit the museums. By Friday, 85 per cent of them were reported to have signed up with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the major unions in the country that represent many prominent museums across the States (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York).
The objective behind this call to unionize is pretty straightforward – seeking increased employee benefits and a new wage structure. Such demands have been earlier raised by New Museum and Guggenheim Museum, both of which unionized last year. In the words of a representative the petitioners:
“United by [our] belief in the dignity of our work, we’re coming together in one voice, so that we can effectively advocate for changes that will make the foundation a more sustainable and equitable institution for all of its employees.”
If approved, the union would almost the entire staff of Marciano, including docents, gallery attendants and floor leads. The museum administration seems to have a favourable attitude towards this development. In a formal statement, the museum said:
“As an organization, we are supportive of all recommendations to improve the workplace experience and will give this careful attention as we begin our discussions.”
The Marciano Art Museum is a rather recent museum, founded only in 2017 by Maurice and Paul Marciano (co-founders of clothing brand Guess). However, in a short time, it has acquired over 1500 works of arts by artists like Cindy Sherman and Christopher Wool.