Strike underway at Philadelphia Museum of Art; museum still open

Curators, conservators, workers in visitors services and across most departments at the museum joined the picket line.

Katherine Scott Image
Monday, September 26, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

The Philadelphia Museum of Art remains open even as a labor strike got underway on Monday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Museum of Art remains open even as a labor strike got underway on Monday.

Curators, conservators, workers in visitors services and across most departments at the Philadelphia Museum of Art joined the picket line, less than a month before a Matisse exhibition is scheduled to open.

"No contract, no peace! No contract, no Matisse," chanted workers outside the employee entrance.

"I don't know who is going to hang the art on the walls. Right? Everyone who installs the paintings - they're out here today on the lines," said Adam Rizzo, a museum educator and Local 397 president.

Local 397 represents roughly 180 employees.

The workers have been without a contract since the union was created in 2020. The union staged a one-day warning strike earlier this month.

Rizzo says the main issues are pay and healthcare.

"A lot of folks have more than two jobs to get by. Many of us are required to have master's degrees so we have student loan debt, so this is really about survival for a lot of us," stated Rizzo.

"There are definitely jobs that our colleagues have left the museum for that pay definitely better. It's not only in New York or LA, but that could be at the Barnes, at PAFA, the Penn Museum," added curator Amanda Bock.

A museum spokesperson counters their offers are on par with industry standards, noting a higher cost of living in cities like New York.

The museum said their offers included wage increases totaling 8.5% over the next ten months and 11% by July 2024, four weeks of paid parental leave in addition to their current paid time off, and a more flexible remote work schedule.

A statement from the museum read, in part, "The museum remains committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that is both fair to our staff and responsible to the long-term sustainability of this Philadelphia institution."

Teachers union head Jerry Jordan came in solidarity.

"Philadephia is a union town. This is a union that deserves to be recognized. It deserves a contract, and it deserves the support of the labor movement," Jordan said.

The museum is expected to remain open for the duration of the strike.