Museum board votes to deny voluntary recognition to employees, despite more than 80% support
The following is from Tacoma Art Museum Workers United:
TACOMA (Nov. 23, 2022) — In a rushed vote, the Tacoma Art Museum Board refused to voluntarily recognize our union, TAM Workers United (TAMWU), which has more than 80 percent support among our coworkers.
A statement released by the museum illustrates a deliberate mischaracterization of what voluntary recognition of a union entails, despite our efforts to educate the board in person and in writing since going public with our union drive. The statement also bears the marks of the outside counsel the museum recently hired, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, one of the largest “union avoidance” firms in the country.
“Voluntary recognition is a legal pathway to unionization, categorizing it as anything else is simply misinformation and union busting,” said Eden Redmond, an institutional giving manager at TAM. “It’s disappointing, but we have great support from unions across Washington, the community in Tacoma, and workers at TAM, and we’re ready to keep going.”
“Again the board is making institutional decisions without the input from community or staff, showing they would rather rush to anti-union tactics than collaborate and hear from museum workers,” said Joe Liwag, a visitor services representative at TAM.
“This vote is just another example as to why the museum needs to be unionized,” said Carrie Morton, a visitor services representative. “Decisions are made at TAM with little transparency and with little regard for the stakeholders or our community. The problems at TAM are systemic and an overwhelming majority of workers agree that the solution is a strong union.”
The museum’s willful ignorance about what, exactly, unions do has been a source of concern for us since the start of our union drive, and was again present in the museum’s statement. Our good-faith attempts to educate the Board or at least delay a vote until they could become informed were in vain.
“The Board described the union’s grievances as the result of bad behaviors and communication, and therefore outside the scope of what unions do,” Redmond said. “But that’s exactly what unions do- they make structural changes that secure workers rights no matter who is in power. We wanted to talk about a system, and they changed the subject to talk about individuals. This mischaracterizes our work and is a blatant union-busting tactic.”
Stephen Rue, lead preparator at TAM added, “Given that Thursday’s meeting was the first time the TAM Board has met since the unionization effort was made public one month ago, it is clear their denial was made in haste without fully understanding the legal process of voluntary recognition nor all the issues at stake.”
We understand that unions are not granted by employers, though they can be. They are voted into existence by workers themselves. If we need to create our union that way, without the good will of our employer, we are determined to do it.
“TAMWU will continue forward, united as workers spanning all departments of our museum, to bring to the community the message that denial of voluntary recognition is unacceptable and unionization is key to fixing the systematic wrongs that the TAM Board is now hiding behind as reason for their refusal.”