Staffers At Mass MoCA Are On Strike


NORTH ADAMS — A rowdy picket line outside the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday chanted to anyone who would listen: “Get up, get down, North Adams is a union town!”

At least 75 people — members of the Mass MoCA union and their supporters — marched outside the museum to kick off the first day of its strike. Honking horns from passersby, chanting union members, music and loudspeakers rang out on the sidewalk just outside the museum grounds, as well as near city hall.

Citing contentious bargaining talks, Mass MoCA union to go on strike starting Wednesday

The union made public its intention to strike last week; 97 percent of workers voted in favor. The union and the museum have been bargaining, unsuccessfully, over wages since October, leading to the all-out strike.

In April 2021, employees voted to form a union with UAW Local 2110, AFL-CIO. The union is made up of about 120 people in a range of jobs at the museum, including curators, box office staff, office workers and custodians. It took 14 months to ratify its first contract. As part of that effort, the union staged a one-day strike in 2022.

One of Wednesday’s picketers, Amy Chen, is a graphic designer for exhibitions at the museum and has worked there for six years.

“We’ve been at the bargaining table for five months now, and it’s taking forever for them to give us a fair wage offer and cost of living increase,” Chen said. “We’re running out of time.”







workers on strike outside Mass MoCA

At least 75 people — members of the Mass MoCA union and their supporters — marched outside the museum to kick off the first day of its strike on Wednesday.



The union and the museum have issued separate news releases holding strong to their positions since news broke last week of the strike. The museum maintains they’ve been negotiating in good faith, and have recently made a fair offer, whereas the union cited acrimony amid negotiations, and said the museum’s latest response was a lowball offer.

“Our offer of internal equity increases averaging over 5 percent, a raise to $17.25 for the minimum wage, and 3.5 percent across-the-board salary increases remain available for the union to accept,” museum spokesperson Jen Falk told The Eagle on Wednesday. “We stand behind our offer as fair while ensuring the fiscal health of our organization now and into the future. We welcome the opportunity to review and discuss our current offer with the union.”

When the union signed its first contract in 2022, “Mass MoCA was unwilling to commit to fair enough wage increases in the second and third year of the contract,” union organizer Chelsea Farrell said. Part of the contract was an agreement to annually reopen bargaining on wages.







workers on strike outside Mass MoCA

The Mass MoCA union made public its intention to strike last week; 97 percent of workers voted in favor. The union and the museum have been bargaining, unsuccessfully, over wages since October.









workers on strike outside Mass MoCA

Protestors chanted “Get up, get down, North Adams is a union town!” outside Mass MoCA on Wednesday. Honking horns from passersby, chanting union members, music and loudspeakers rang out on the sidewalk.



According to the union, 58 percent of its 120 union members are making $16.25 an hour, and the average pay for full-time employees is $43,600. According to The Economic Policy Institute, to afford to live in Berkshire County, individuals should make at least $47,000 a year. That number jumps to $118,000 for a family of four. The union is looking to raise its minimum hourly rate to $18.25.

“I’m out here for a fair contract, I don’t feel like we’re asking for a lot,” Meghan Jones, a digital asset coordinator at the museum, said Wednesday.

Jesse McCauley, who has worked at the museum for a year-and-a-half, said “there’s definitely some tension” between management and staff.

“This has been going on since October,” McCauley said. “It’s a bit tiresome.”

Lyndee Deal, a communications coordinator at the museum, has been there for more than six months but started in her new role last week. Asked if she felt any insecurity in striking so soon after starting a new job, Deal said, “Definitely.”

“I struggled a lot in knowing what to do, but I think it’s important to stand in solidarity and be here to support my cohort,” Deal said.







workers on strike outside Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA workers on strike picket outside of the museum in North Adams on Wednesday. The museum is still open to the public, and notes that picketing activity is limited to the public sidewalk outside campus grounds.



Museum Director Kristy Edmunds said in a statement Wednesday that the museum’s employees are “the beating heart of why we exist as an arts organization.”

“In the span of three years, we have implemented equity increases at every level, continued to stay ahead of the Commonwealth’s minimum wage, ensured no disruption in health and retirement benefits, and funded a variety of innovative employee support programs that include student loan, elder and child care offsets,” Edmunds said. “At this post-pandemic juncture, we are building a future of financial resilience — including significant investments in our people — and cannot agree to contract terms that will diminish our ability to do so holistically.” 

One comment from the museum sent on March 1 to union members drew ire from the union.

“The Museum cannot agree to terms that will diminish our mission or operational sustainability, upend vital partnerships, reduce our programs, or fundamentally change our creative workplace culture,” the museum wrote. “Simply put, Mass MoCA has been and will continue to be moved to adopt proposals that are balanced, fair, sustainable, and honest.”







workers on strike outside Mass MoCA

Museum Director Kristy Edmunds said in a statement Wednesday that the museum’s employees are “the beating heart of why we exist as an arts organization.”



But, the union has said the museum’s base wage proposal is only $150,000 lower than what the union is seeking.

“Workers need the money just to make ends meet,” a Monday news release from the union reads. “Moreover, the union asserts that the museum has increased the number of higher-paid management positions at the expense of unionized staff.”

Falk said the Laurie Anderson To the Moon and Chalkroom VR experiences will be closed due to the strike. An email sent to Mass MoCA campus members by the museum on Monday gets somewhat specific on how the museum will run during the impending strike.

“The priority of museum management will be to lift together to ensure the museum remains open to support the public and provide a great experience for all museum visitors during that time,” the email reads. “Scores of us will be working to make sure that happens, filling in wherever needed.”

The email noted that picketing activity is limited to the public sidewalk outside campus grounds. The proceedings “cannot prevent public entry or interfere with deliveries or other business operations.” The museum is prepared to have extra security in place “to maintain a calm campus environment.”





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