Milwaukee Art Museum Workers Deserve a Fair First Contract
Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees
In November of 2020, voting to form a union was an act of hope. Now the workers of the Milwaukee Art Museum are fighting for a first contract that provides for fair and living wages, respect, job security, diversity and equity, career advancement, and a voice at their workplace.
Please sign our letter to the Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees and let them know that you value the livelihoods and humanity of the employees of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and desire to see them fairly compensated, valued, and respected via a fair employment contract.
Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees
From: [Your Name]
Dear Members of the Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees,
Since February of this year the workers of the Milwaukee Art Museum have been engaged in first contract negotiations seeking to find agreement and partnership that will fulfill MAM’s mission and realize the goals set forth in MAM’s 2020 Strategic Direction.
This group of over 70 employees from across the museum present, interpret, preserve, and protect the artwork, touching nearly every aspect of the Museum’s operations.
A majority of this group were furloughed during 2020 and 2021, and have been excited and proud to return to work at the Museum when it reopened, offering meaningful respite amidst the pandemic, as well as revenue-generating events.
- Over 40% of the workers earn less than $14.15 an hour, the current MIT Living Wage for Milwaukee County for a single adult with no dependents.
- Nearly all the positions in the bargaining unit are paid below the median wage for their positions, according to the AAMD and AAM salary surveys. Many earn 20-30% less than the median to do professional-grade work. This is in stark contrast to the executive salaries reported in the museum’s 2019 IRS Form 990, in comparison to these same salary surveys.
- Many departments have been hit hard by recent departures, including Design, Conservation, Development, and Front Line Staff, leading to the closure of regular onsite dining options and negatively impacting the visitor experience.
- Counting just those employees covered by the contract, the Museum has lost over 120 cumulative years of experience in the past 4 months. For the museum to succeed, and to continue the important work of the museum, change is needed now.
Voting to form a union was an act of hope. These employees are hopeful for the future of the Milwaukee Art Museum as it seeks to connect the Museum and the Community in new and meaningful ways through the Strategic Direction. The employees of the Milwaukee Art Museum are also part of that community, as nearly 90% of them call Milwaukee County home. To do the best work possible, and to lead in the arts and culture sector regionally and nationally, the Museum must begin by valuing its employee base equitably.
We ask that Museum leadership acknowledge that wages at the Museum have been below average long prior to the current moment. The financial solvency of the Museum cannot be shouldered onto the employees by paying below median, and below living, wages.
We call on you, the Trustees of the Milwaukee Art Museum, to support its workers’ desire for fair and living wages; job security; career development; increased access to health insurance; diversity and equity in the workplace; and stronger health and safety protections.
It is time that Dr. Polednik and the Executive Committee value the livelihoods and humanity of the employees of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and ensure that they are fairly compensated, valued, and respected via a fair employment contract.
Thank you for your service, and stewardship of the Milwaukee Art Museum and its future.
[YOUR NAME HERE]
*For executive compensation, see Midwest data from the Association of Art Museum Directors 2020 Salary Survey, published October 21, 2020: https://aamd.org/our-members/from-the-field/salary-survey-2020
For staff data, see this same data, as well as the data for Midwest and Museums with Operating Budgets over $3 million, from the American Alliance of Museums 2017 National Museum Salary Survey: https://www.aam-us.org/programs/manage-your-career/national-museum-salary-survey/
Compensation for positions not included in these surveys was taken from the median wage listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics information on comparable positions in Milwaukee County.
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s 2019 IRS Form 990 is available here: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/390806316
MIT Living Wage Calculator for Milwaukee, WI: https://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/33340