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Weekend Rally Aims to Support Unionization at Tacoma Art Museum

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Thursday, October 27, 2022   

Employees of the Tacoma Art Museum have collected more than 400 signatures on a community letter, as they seek to unionize the institution founded in 1935.

Stephen Rue, lead preparator for the Art Museum, prepares exhibits at the museum, and said a majority of workers have indicated they want to join the Washington Federation of State Employees and become the state's first museum with unionized workers across departments.

Rue believes a recent management resignation and other disruptions suggest it is the appropriate time for more employee engagement.

"Unionizing would solidify our voice as the workers - but also give us voice in order to implement those changes that need to be made," Rue said.

Workers are seeking voluntary recognition for the union from museum management, but have not heard if that will be accepted. A solidarity rally will be held across the street from the museum on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Eden Redmond, institutional giving manager for the museum, believes unionization could help guarantee livable wages, safe working conditions, transparency and accountability from management. She said that would help create a layer of worker advocacy and support.

"A union would provide regular opportunities for feedback," Redmond said, "would provide guaranteed opportunities for evaluation and opportunity for promotion - making those foundational practices across the institution."

Carrie Morton, visitor-service representative for the museum, said there are 27 eligible workers who have signed union authorization cards.

"We do have 90% of the eligible workers that are in support of the union," Morton said, "so it gives a pretty clear mandate at least among the union-eligible employees this is the way that we want to go forward."

Morton said wages at the museum - between $15 and $17 per hour - are not enough to live on in Tacoma and force many employees to take on second jobs.

Disclosure: Trade Justice Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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