Baltimore Museum of Art Workers Push to Unionize, Joining Growing Wave of Institutions

Baltimore Museum of Art Workers Push to Unionize, Joining Growing Wave of Institutions

Employees at the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland said on Tuesday that they were initiating the process of unionizing, joining a workers’ rights movement that has taken hold in institutions across the country over the past few years. A union spokesperson said 120 workers from departments include conservation, installation, marketing, and visitor services were involved in the drive.

The Baltimore Museum workers are aiming to join AFSCME Council 67, which is also expected to include workers at the nearby Walters Art Museum, where employees have announced intentions to unionize but have not yet voted on the measure. That institution’s director, Julia Marciari-Alexander, has made it known that she would not oppose the museum staff’s unionization effort, but the stance of leadership at the Baltimore Museum is less clear.

“We are actively engaging in conversation with colleagues about possible unionization at the BMA and exploring the range of perspectives on the subject,” a museum spokesperson said in a statement.

The Baltimore Museum union is calling for safer working conditions and greater representation for workers in institutional decisions. Workers at the museum claimed that front-of-house staff members were looped out of plans to return to in-person work once the Baltimore Museum reopened after lockdown in 2020. (A museum spokesperson denied this, saying that the museum’s plans “evolved through time with ongoing feedback.”)

“As an organized body, we are in the best position to advocate for what is in our best interest, and to have a voice in the decision-making process at the museum,” the union said in a statement posted to its website.

Since the formation of a union at the New Museum in New York in 2019, other similar workers’ groups have sprung up at institutions around the nation. This past summer saw the formation of a union at the Whitney Museum in New York, as well as announcements of union drives at the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Front-of-house staff said they were not involved in planning to return to in-person work in 2020.