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MASS MoCA Workers Vote To Unionize

MASS MoCA Union UAW Local 2110 North Adams, MA

Employees of North Adams, Massachusetts art museum MASS MoCA have decisively voted to unionize. 

Earlier this spring, the staff of the contemporary art museum made their intent to unionize public.

“There was a lot of feeling for many years that we felt underpaid, undervalued, overworked. And then last year, the COVID related layoffs really laid bare the ways that we aren’t protected and the ways that we feel that we should be," staff spokesperson and Associate Director of Education Amanda Tobin told WAMC in March. “I was one of the folks laid off. And then when I was rehired in May, we all just started talking again about, you know, this seems like the moment to actually try and make this happen. Because it's been happening all across the country, and it's sort of now or never. When else would it would it work, you know? So we started having those conversations over the summer right around when the museum opened back up to the public.”

Now, after a 53-15 vote to join the UAW Local 2110 on Wednesday, Tobin says that she and the staff are elated.

“My heart is pounding," she told WAMC. "We were texting the organizing committee throughout watching the ballot count come in and just sort of laughing about how we felt sweaty, our hearts were pounding, we were shaky, and it was sort of like watching a thriller. But instead, it's just watching people open envelopes.”

The two-part vote, carried out by representatives of the National Labor Relations Board, also determined that both professional and non-professional MASS MoCA staffers will be represented as one unit.

“What we have just accomplished is that we are a wall to wall union," explained Tobin. "That means that everybody is involved in the same bargaining unit. And essentially, its power in numbers, right? So the bigger the unit, the more say that we can have, the more influence we can have in our working conditions.”

After the vote, MASS MoCA issued a statement from interim director Tracy Moore:

“MASS MoCA is committed to continuing to build a culture where our employees feel valued and respected, and have the opportunity to contribute to the mission and grow as professionals. While we recognize the challenges we face as an institution, we believe in our staff and in our ability to meet these challenges together. We respect the choice to unionize and look forward to working with UAW Local 2110 in continuing to cultivate an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable workplace.”

Next up, the MASS MoCA union will elect a five to seven person bargaining committee to negotiate a contract with management. Manager of Institutional Giving Maro Elliott says the union will send out a survey to its members to identify what issues they would like that process to address.

“Wage increases is certainly one of them, and across the board," Elliott said. "Certain changes to health care, depending on what sort of coverage people are interested in – so hopefully improved coverage. Improved benefits. Some people are interested in, for example, family leave.”

Tobin says the vote is just the beginning of a new chapter for the museum staff.

“Now we can really get to work and start doing the concrete conversations around bargaining and things like that, that'll start to improve and make MASS MoCA better,” she said.

By way of disclosure, MASS MoCA has been a WAMC underwriter.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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