Tacoma Art Museum union could be model for others
Monday, December 4, 2023
Workers at the Tacoma Art Museum are celebrating a unique union victory that could be a model for other museums.
The 26 members of Tacoma Art Museum Workers United voted unanimously in favor of the union in November.
It's Washington state's first cross-department union in an art museum, although they're still seeking to include two security workers.
Museum Institutional Giving Manager Eden Redmond said they fought for an inclusive union because workers were experiencing similar issues museum-wide.
"The issues that workers were facing permeated across departments," said Redmond, "and they permeated across experience levels and tenure, and they permeated across different generations of leadership - and so we began looking to each other and saying, hey, we've got a systemic problem and we need a systemic solution."
The union is joining the Washington Federation of State Employees. Redmond said they'll start working on a contract in 2024.
Museum leadership said they will work with the union going forward in this process.
Steve Rue is a preparator at the museum. He said he sees their unionization drive as part of a larger movement.
"The problems that are happening in other museums are the exact same problems that we have here," said Rue, "which goes to show that it's more than just a few bad apples in a few places. The museum industry as a whole is outdated and broken."
Redmond said Tacoma Art Museum workers have been connecting with staff at other museums around the country who are facing the same issues, and sees energy behind unionization elsewhere too.
"If you're going to be protecting and preserving culture through arts objects or historical objects," said Redmond, "you can also be creating positive culture by protecting your workers."
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