District 10 Staff Representative for the United Steelworkers, Guillermo Perez joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the organizing efforts at of the Carnegie Museums. Perez also discussed the growing trend among cultural workers in the non-profit sector to embrace unions and the need for improved labor law.
Before the pandemic, the USW was able to organize the Carnegie Library workers. This effort led to the Carnegie Museum workers voicing their desire to unionize after witnessing the benefits earned by the library workers, with whom they share a building. After a multi-year organizing campaign that started during the pandemic, the Museum workers voted to unionize with the USW. However, negotiations with the Carnegie Museum turned out to be difficult. It took 18 months before the workers wage demands were agreed upon, and a first contract was ratified.
Workers from all four Carnegie Museums — the Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum — were given livable wages, earning a minimum of $16 an hour. The impact of the first contract not only changed the lives of many of the workers who previously made $8 an hour, but also helped increase the low average salary for non-profit workers in the Western Pennsylvania area. This is one of many recent successful organizing campaigns for cultural workers in the nonprofit sector, as many have grown tired of the low wages and high turnover rates.
Not only was this a historic organizing campaign the success at the Carnegie Museums, it introduced a union into a workplace named for a notoriously anti-union individual. Andrew Carnegie was a great philanthropist, however he was also the man that created the hostile environment for the Homestead Massacre to take place. The event is one of the highest profile anti-union events of all time, leaving seven workers and one Pinkerton guard dead.
Listen to the entire episode to learn more.
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