United Automobile Workers

Mar 04 2024

MASS MoCA Workers Announce March 6 Strike Deadline

March 4, North Adams, MA — Unionized employees of MASS MoCA will go on strike starting Wednesday, March 6 if no agreement on wages is reached with the Museum before then. Employees will begin picketing the Museum starting 8 am on Wednesday, March 6 and will picket daily until an agreement is reached.  

The employees’ union, part of Local 2110 UAW, was originally formed in April of 2021. After a one day strike in August of 2022, employees reached an agreement on a first contract which allowed them to re-open the agreement in October 2023 to negotiate further wage increases. Negotiations on the wage reopener have been ongoing for four months but no agreement has been reached. 

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the 120 employees are earning just $16.25 per hour. Average pay for full-time employees is $43,600.  According to The Economic Policy Institute’s family budget calculator, for a modest living in Berkshire County, a single individual with no children needs to earn approximately $47,000 per year while a family of four needs about $118,000. The Union is seeking to raise the hourly minimum rate to $18.25 by October of 2023 and is also seeking a minimum 4.5% increase this year. 

MASS MoCA sent out a March 1 email to union members characterizing its rejection of the Union’s offer: “The Museum cannot agree to terms that will diminish our mission or operational sustainability, upend vital partnerships, reduce our programs, or fundamentally change our creative workplace culture. Simply put, MASS MoCA has been and will continue to be moved to adopt proposals that are balanced, fair, sustainable, and honest.”

The Union says the difference between its and the Museum’s base wage proposal is only an additional $150,000 for this year, and that workers need the money just to make ends meet. Moreover, the Union asserts that the Museum has increased the number of higher-paid management positions at the expense of the unionized staff.

“MASS MoCA seems out of touch with our needs and concerns as employees,” said Meg Labbee, a 25 year employee of the Museum who works in Artists Services. “They say the arts and artists come first but they need to show some regard for the people who work here. We love the work, but we deserve respect and fair conditions.”

Labbee, who is from the nearby town of Adams, adds, "Many of us live locally and our pay has not kept pace with the cost of living. By raising pay to something more livable, MASS MoCA would not only be supporting its employees, but helping lift the community, MASS MoCA’s rejection of our reasonable proposal has left us with no choice but to strike the institution we love.”

The March 6 strike deadline is not the first time bargaining with the Museum has been contentious. In 2022, during initial contract bargaining, the Union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the Museum’s bad faith bargaining, and employees engaged in a one-day strike.  Then, this past November, the Union filed a complaint against the Museum with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when the Museum ordered workers to remove flooring contaminated with loose asbestos without proper equipment or training. OSHA has since issued test results  confirming the presence of asbestos, cited necessary corrections to the Museum and is conducting an ongoing investigation. 

In April 2021, the MASS MoCA staff voted overwhelmingly to unionize with UAW Local 2110. The bargaining unit includes approximately 120 employees who work as educators, curators, custodians, museum attendants, box office staff, art fabricators, technicians, and other administrative and professional staff. UAW Local 2110 is a technical, office and professional union that represents many museums and cultural institutions in the northeast including the Museum of Modern Art, the MFA, Boston, the Portland Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and other non-profit and educational institutions.

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Contact Information

Jonah Furman

Feldman Strategies, team@feldmanstrategies.com