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Staff at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) in Ohio on October 27 voted overwhelmingly to unionize as the Columbus Museum of Art Workers United (CMAWU) under the aegis of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, the local branch of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The vote comes less than two months after employees announced their intention to form a union. The staff at CMA join their compatriots at museums across the United States who have moved to unionize in recent years, among them Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum, Dia Art Foundation, New Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“It’s a great day, and we are excited to take the next step in this journey with our CMA union Family,” said CMAWU member Dani Rand, who works in the museum’s special events department, in a statement. “We look forward to working with our management and administration to make our workplace more equitable, while continuing to maintain the flagship cultural institution CMA has always been.”

Among the issues staff earlier cited as spurring their push to unionize earlier this year were budget cuts and staffing reductions. The money-saving measures, which were similar to those taken by museums around the world in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, resulted in heavier workloads for remaining employees, many of whom additionally faced job precarity and the prospect of being forced to return to in-person work before vaccines became widely available.

The newly formed union in a press release praised local politicians for their assistance with the unionization drive and thanked the community for their support.

“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience to be part of our union campaign, and I know it’s because the Columbus Museum of Art is an important part of this city’s community,” said CWAMU member and visitor services staffer RG Barton in a statement. “I built really strong relationships not just with my coworkers but also the community who have stood with us throughout this process. We hope they will continue to stand with us as we begin negotiating our contract.”

Contract negotiations are expected to commence shortly.


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