Baltimore, MD—October 20, 2021—Ahead of tonight’s Walters Workers United rally, the Walters Art Museum issued the following statement:
The Walters Art Museum hopes that this evening’s rally is another peaceful gathering underscoring points that the museum’s leadership also supports: its employees’ rights to consider forming a union and their need for a living wage. Indeed, these are areas in which the Walters has been active and publicly visible, including raising its base wage in early 2021 to $15 per hour.
With respect to some of the Walters employees’ interest in unionizing, the museum has been open, clear, and consistent: it supports its employees’ rights to vote on forming a union. Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director, said this publicly (again) in last week’s informational hearing of the City Council’s Education, Workforce, and Youth Committee. The hearing was called to answer one specific question: is it feasible for Walters employees to unionize? The answer is yes, which is a fact the Walters has acknowledged since a group of employees first announced an intention to unionize.
But feasibility is not the same as process. At the hearing, Hilary Ruley, the City’s Chief Solicitor, was clear and unequivocal that the City Council cannot expand the Baltimore City collective bargaining process to include Walters employees because the museum is not a City agency. Her remarks follow on the Law Department’s earlier memorandum with the same conclusion.
This verdict from the City’s Law Department underscores the museum’s position of non-interference, and that any of its employees who want to form a union should follow the normal, standard process: they should file their petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Many other museum employees across the country have filed petitions with the NLRB. According to NLRB data, the average number of days between petition and certification is approximately 31 days. Based on the success other cultural workers have had with this process, WWU could have a certified union before the end of 2021.