Sasha Suda, the new director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), on October 12 publicly acknowledged the roughly 180 unionized employees of the institution who since September 26 have been on strike in an effort to secure a fair contract. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Suda remarked on the situation during a press preview of the museum’s upcoming Matisse exhibition, speaking before an assembled audience of roughly one hundred media representatives.
“For me, as you can imagine, this has been an intense period of observation, listening, and assessing what the future of the organization can and will be,” said Suda, who emphasized that she had assumed her post at the museum as the strike was underway. “I know that the PMA board and leadership believes that the PMA employees are the foundation of [its] future.”
Suda’s comments came just days after the museum announced it would be halting all commenting across its social media platforms, which were inundated by blistering opinions criticizing the institution and supporting the striking staff. The PMA Union, which formed in May 2020 under the auspices of AFSCME District Council 47, Local 397, is seeking lower health care costs and higher wages. Union representatives contend that the museum has stonewalled them on a contract for two years, and that management have not yet brought a serious offer to the table.
Formerly the director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Suda arrived with a reputation for increasing diversity among staff and among exhibiting artists, and for working to increase engagement between the museum and Indigenous communities. “A new director isn’t going to magically resolve the labor issues at the museum,” union leader Adam Rizzo told the Philadelphia Inquirer in June, when her hiring was announced. On Wednesday, curator Amanda Bock told the same publication, “We’ve never met her. They could settle this today if they wanted to.”