Dear Friends and Supporters of the Walters Art Museum,
By now many of you have likely heard that a group of Walters Art Museum staff, working together under the name Walters Workers United, is campaigning to create a union here at the museum with AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Council 67. In light of these developments, I am writing—joined by the President and Chairman (respectively) of our Board of Trustees—to share with you the perspective of the museum’s leadership.
Since this was first brought to my attention, I have affirmed to the museum’s staff on several occasions that the Walters Art Museum’s leadership supports the rights of employees to choose whether to unionize and will work with a union if the majority of eligible Walters employees votes to have one. The museum’s Board of Trustees has also affirmed and supports that position. I have likewise been clear with the museum’s staff that I am committed to ensuring this is not an adversarial process and that management will not take steps to influence the outcome of a vote.
Just as I have communicated to the museum’s staff, I also want to reaffirm publicly to all of you, our friends and supporters, the Walters Art Museum’s commitment to this democratic process and to our fundamental respect for our employees’ right to express their voices through a vote regarding unionization. In our capacity as representatives of the Walters’ leadership, the three of us have together reached out to City, County, and State officials over the last few weeks to share our position in this regard, because we understand how important it is—both to our staff and to the elected officials who represent all of us—that each employee has the right to make this decision for themselves.
One important question that has come up is about the process confusingly referred to as “voluntary recognition.” If the Walters is not opposed to a staff union, then why don’t I, as Executive Director, unilaterally decide that the workforce will be unionized through “voluntary recognition”? Put simply: I believe it is every employee’s responsibility to determine for themselves whether they want to unionize—and the best way to do that is through a confidential vote administered by the National Labor Relations Board. If the Walters leadership voluntarily recognizes the union, it would revoke employees’ legal right to vote on unionization and undermine that core democratic principle. Moreover, as Executive Director, I have a responsibility to act on behalf of all of the museum’s employees, some of whom may want a union and some of whom may not. For me to recognize the union voluntarily would require me to side with one group of employees over another.
It is important to me—to us, as the museum’s staff and Board leadership—that we be clear and open about our position on this important topic. If you have questions about the unionizing process or how the museum is approaching this, please let us know. Walters Workers United has shared a community letter (available on their website, if you have not seen it), so please consider this the museum’s community letter in support of our employees as they consider this important step in determining their future.
Julia Marciari-Alexander, PhD
Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director
Guy E. Flynn
President of the Board of Trustees
James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr.
Chair of the Board of Trustees