The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union

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Picketers stand in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art during a strike action in late September.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union, affiliated with the American Federation of State, District, and Municipal Employees, District 47 Council, have reached a three-year agreement.

The strike, which began on September 26, lasted 19 days, as the union and the museum could not agree on a significant wage increase. The union rejected the PMA’s initial offer of an 8.5% pay increase over the next 10 months and 11% by July 1, 2024.

The news of the preliminary agreement came just as the Philadelphia Museum of Art was about to open an exhibition of the blockbuster Henri Matisse, and the protest was originally planned for the VIP opening of the exhibition. This action has since been reversed.

On social media, the union accused the Philadelphia Museum of Art of hiring outside artists, whom the union called “scab”, to install works in the Matisse exhibition while the strike continued. When asked about this, a PMA spokesman declined to comment.

The new deal, union leaders told the Inquirer, includes wage increases. The minimum hourly wage for museum workers will be increased from $15 to $16.75. Employees will also receive reduced medical costs and four weeks of paid parental leave.

The agreement will bring an over two-year process to an end. Philadelphia Museum of Art workers voted to unionize in August 2020 and negotiations have dragged on since then.

The New York Times reported in January that Joshua Helmer, formerly a museum manager, solicited dates from employees in exchange for professional advancement. At the time, the Philadelphia Museum of Art said it strives to be free of harassment or inappropriate behavior of any kind and promised to explore the culture of its work.

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