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Outside Minneapolis Institute of Art, Workers Stage Protest

Employees at the Minneapolis Institute of Art have staged a picket outside the facility amidst a unionization battle.

In 2021, temporary workers at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), who call themselves ‘casuals’, joined the Office and Professionals Employees Union (OPEIU) Local 12. The move was prompted by the allegedly improper way the museum handled the casuals during the pandemic. In 2020 alone, the museum fired 65 of the 100 casual employees it had prior to the pandemic. It is worth noting that the casual employees also didn’t make the mandatory $15/hour wage that regular museum workers are supposed to get. In addition, workers also criticized the fact that the top leadership at the museum only took a 15% pay cut during the pandemic. This was much less compared to leadership at other museums who took heavy pay cuts to keep the museum and lower staff afloat.

A 2021 petition, when the workers first joined the union, read: “Mia officials decided to layoff those that are in the lowest-paid positions and the most precarious of financial positions. As a result, these decisions have disproportionately affected Mia’s BIPOC staff (which primarily retain non-managerial or grant-funded positions in the museum).” The OPEIU, which includes 150 curators, has been striving to get a 16% pay raise for the casual over the next 2.5 years and medical benefits.

Reportedly, the MIA had sent a counter-proposal that agreed to a 15% pay increase in the same time frame, but on the condition that 9 of the highest-paid curators leave the union. This prompted the union to organize an informational picket outside the Minneapolis museum this week. The union calls the counter-proposal unfair, given that the museum has allocated a $38 million budget (a historic record) for this year.