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Milwaukee Public Museum workers fight for decent contract

By Tracey Schwerdtfeger |
January 19, 2020
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Museum workers are fighting for decent contract in Milwaukee.
Museum workers are fighting for decent contract in Milwaukee. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Milwaukee, WI - On the afternoon of January 18, unionized workers at the Milwaukee Public Museum held a lively picket during "Museum Week" activities, to demand a decent contract. Over 50 museum workers and supporters, including museum members, donors and elected officials, joined the picket outside the popular natural history museum in downtown Milwaukee.

After months of negotiations with Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), Inc., the museum workers are now working without a contract, which means they are released from the "no strike" clause and could legally go on strike at any time. AFSCME Local 526, the union that represents the approximately 100 museum employees, has organized multiple workplace actions demanding livable wages, fair raises, affordable health insurance and paid parental leave.

At the January 18 picket, union leaders criticized museum administration, who runs the private non-profit MPM Inc, for proposing pay freezes for high seniority workers, tripling the health insurance deductible, and cutting the 401(k).

Speaking at the picket, AFSCME Local 526 President Jaclyn Kelly said, "Many museum workers earn poverty wages, and many more are underpaid for the professional work they do," adding that museum administration's most recent wage proposal was "insulting" at only nine cents an hour for the lowest-paid workers.

"What's outrageous? Poverty wages!" workers yelled as they carried green picket signs reading "Livable wages now."

Picketing union members handed fliers to museum visitors, asking them to call MPM CEO Dr. Ellen Censky (414-278-2746) and ask her to approve a contract that respects museum workers by providing livable wages, fair raises, affordable health insurance and paid parental leave.

"Revenue is up, donations are up; it's time for museum administration to invest in us because we're fed up! We can't afford administration's proposed cuts," said union Vice President Jacob Flom during the picket. "The only option we have is to fight until we get a fair contract, and that's exactly what we are doing."

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