Dear Friends and Supporters of the Walters Art Museum,
About a year ago, I wrote to update you on the desire of some of the museum’s staff to form a union, organized under the umbrella name of Walters Workers United (WWU) and in conjunction with AFSCME Council 67. Now, with Labor Day once again here, it is important to reiterate that the leadership of the Walters supports our employees in their desire to consider forming a union.
For the museum as a whole, we presented the enormously successful Majolica Mania and Activating the Renaissance exhibitions, along with presenting the 17th edition of The Janet and Walter Sondheim Art Prize Finalists exhibition. We are nearly finished with renovations to our fourth floor galleries, in preparation for the Across Asia installation that will open in April. And we have made a number of important hires, including Theresa Sotto as the Ruth R. Marder Director of Learning & Community Engagement, Tiarra Chance as Human Resources Director, and mostly recently, Dr. Gina Borromeo as Senior Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs and Earl Martin as our Deborah and Philip English Curator of Decorative Arts, Design, and Material Culture.
On the issue of union organizing, WWU and AFSCME have still resisted taking the necessary steps within their control in order to proceed to a union vote. From the beginning, leadership has clearly stated that we support our employees’ right to consider unionization. While we know that some Walters employees have expressed an interest in forming a union, many other museum employees have expressed an equally clear desire not to form a union. This divide underscores the need for a democratic process in which each eligible employee’s right to vote is respected so that it is truly a decision made by those most affected.
WWU and AFSCME can still file a petition (or petitions) seeking a union election, as unions have done on behalf of thousands of our museum colleagues across the country. Instead, they have taken no substantive action to advance this process. And while we respect their right to make their position known via social media, this is in no way the same thing as meaningful, concrete, and proactive steps that would lead to a vote on unionization.
The underlying message embedded in the Labor Day holiday is one celebrating the empowerment of workers. It remains a message we believe in, and we recognize that the museum’s employees are the heart of this organization, essential to our activities across the spectrum of our work. The opportunity—and responsibility—to get to a vote remains with WWU and AFSCME, and if they are serious about forming a union, we encourage them to take the next step out of respect for their colleagues and the democratic process previously undertaken by their many colleagues nationwide.