Connect with us


Tacoma Art Museum Board silent on union recognition

Board promised a decision on TAM Workers United after its March 31 meeting. But no announcement has been made.


The following is from AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE):

TACOMA (April 4, 2023) — There was hope that the Board of Trustees for the Tacoma Art Museum had decided to do the right thing after the rally on March 23 when they announced a special board meeting on the March 31. TAM Interim Executive Director Helen McGovern Pilant came out and told the crowd, “There will be a decision at the end of the meeting. They have heard you and there will be action.”

TAM Workers United and their supporters were there to hear the decision on March 31, but after the meeting, the Board simply filed past without answering questions.

“The Tacoma Art Museum holds a very special place in our city, and that is as much because of the employees as it is because of the art,” said Lisa Oldoski, an AFSCME Local 3787 member who works at the Pierce County Library System. “The work and dedication of the TAM workers should be supported through voluntary recognition of their union. All workers deserve a voice, a seat at the table, a fair contract, and a living wage. Local unions, workers, artists, art museum members and visitors, residents, business owners, and elected officials have all made it very clear that they support the workers of the museum, they see their value and support their union, it is time for the board to do so as well.”

If the TAM Board votes YES to voluntarily recognize TAM Workers United, the most diverse segment of TAM workers—who are paid the least, who don’t have health insurance, and who have the greatest safety concerns—will be able to stay in the union that they helped form and have helped sustain since October.

TAM has an opportunity to truly live up to its mission to “inspire broader perspectives and cultivate a compassionate future” and fulfill its stated commitment to social justice.

“I’ve enjoyed taking my great-grandchildren to TAM and I’m grateful for the influence that TAM had on the development of my artist granddaughter,” said Jolinda Stephens, a Tacoma resident. “Recognizing the union that represents all of the workers of TAM is fundamental to more fully representing and honoring the many cultures of Tacoma. Recognizing the union also contributes to the financial security of the members which contributes to the economic stability of our whole community.”

Given the amount of support for unionization among TAM workers, there is no question whether there will be a union at TAM. The only question is how much the Board is going to damage the museum’s reputation before we get there.

When presented with the startling inequity issues at TAM—both in terms of the museum’s everyday operations and their response to our union—local elected officials, artists, labor organizations, and concerned citizens spoke up.

On March 21, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and the entire Tacoma City Council wrote to the TAM Board to review its anti-racist policies and negotiate with our union.

TAM Workers United is calling on the Board of Trustees to release the results of their meeting, cease union-busting and grant voluntary recognition so they can begin the work of making TAM the museum it can be.

Staff at Tacoma Art Museum are choosing to form TAM Workers United to improve wages, working conditions, transparency and accountability from management, and to ensure an equitable future for the museum and their community. AFSCME represents more cultural workers than any other union, including 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions in the public and private sector, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!