September 3, 2021
Dear Friends and Supporters of the Walters Art Museum,
As we head into Labor Day weekend, my thoughts are very much about the museum’s staff, and the work that we do to ensure outstanding experiences with great art for all of you, our visitors.
With the full support of my leadership team, representing all of the Walters’ departments, we recently announced that our staff must be fully vaccinated by the end of October. We took this step after hearing from many employees about their ongoing Covid-19 concerns—and because vaccination remains the best way to protect both our staff and our visitors.
As many of you also likely know, a number of our employees have expressed a desire to be represented by a union, and have organized themselves under the umbrella name Walters Workers United (WWU), working in partnership with AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Council 67. WWU first shared their intentions with museum leadership in April 2021. I have been clear since then that if Walters staff vote to create a union, we will move expediently and in good faith to bargain with that union.
We have been waiting for these employees to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the neutral third-party federal agency established by Congress specifically to oversee union representation elections. We expected WWU to file this petition months ago—ultimately whether they do so is exclusively within the control of WWU and AFSCME. Employees at other museums around the country continue to hold votes administered by the NLRB, including just recently the staff at the Brooklyn Museum. And there is no question that a fair and formal NLRB-managed vote is crucial. Indeed, it is the only mechanism to ensure that each member of our staff is properly heard on the question of whether to have a union.
Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894, embraced as a moment to recognize the importance of the American labor movement. While many of us often think of it more as the long weekend that marks the end of summer, this is a good time to recall its origins. This is also a good time to affirm once again that the staff of the Walters Art Museum are at the heart of everything the museum does. It is in that spirit that the Walters Art Museum supports its employees’ right to vote on whether to unionize, and we hope that they will have the opportunity to take advantage of this right in the near future.
Julia Marciari-Alexander, PhD
Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director