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Philadelphia cultural and museum workers celebrate the formation of Local 397

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo credit: Getty
By Kathleen Cancio ·

After running a successful campaign last year that led to a wall-to-wall museum union, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union is making history again by becoming the first museum to join Local 397, a newly established local for museum and cultural workers under AFSCME District Council 47.

The new local will represent cultural and museum workers from various institutions across Southeast Pennsylvania. Last month, workers at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology announced their move to join PMUA under Local 397 as Penn Museum Workers United (PMWU). The group has already demonstrated supermajority support for a union and is requesting voluntary recognition from Penn Museum’s management.

Meanwhile, DC 47 is excited to grow Local 397 and has already secured three additional organizers to help with the efforts. The new organizing team is working with several other groups looking to unionize, and DC 47 says it is being approached by a new group every week.

Interest in organizing among museum workers has seen a steady increase of late, particularly at the height of the pandemic last summer when scores of museum workers were being laid off or furloughed by their institutions.

Cultural Workers United-AFSCME has become the nation’s leading union for workers in museums, libraries, zoos and other cultural institutions. Workers are joining together to negotiate for better pay, working conditions, demand equity and fight for transparency in their workplaces.

For more information on this story, see DC 47’s June newsletter.

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