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Employees at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures formally announced their intention to unionize on May 26, after a year of talks and organizing.
“We are thrilled to be forming our union,” said Sarah Stearn, a retail sales associate at the museum. “It is time those who work in preserving and celebrating art, in this case the art of cinema, have a voice in their job. All workers deserve respect and a say in our working conditions and the direction of our work. For this museum to be successful, its workers must be safe and respected.”
Academy Museum Workers United has organized with Cultural Workers United, which also organized workers at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2020.
“Their union was voluntarily recognized by their employers,” theater staff worker Hunter Logan said on June 22, the day the workers formally asked the museum to recognize the union. The workers organized a press conference across the street from the museum, then marched to the entrance and handed a museum leader a letter asking for recognition.
“As Academy Museum Workers United, we ask our management to come to the same conclusion. Unions make our workplaces stronger for everyone, and the quickest, cheapest, fairest way to form one is to officially recognize when that union has achieved a majority support like we have,” Logan added.
The move was supported by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District.
“I’m a lifelong supporter of the right of workers to organize,” Koretz said on July 6. “I was a founder of AFSCME Local 3339, chaired the State Assembly Labor and Employment Committee during my six years in the state legislature and currently chair the Personnel Committee of the L.A. City Council. As a young child, I walked picket lines with my father and his fellow workers of Waiters Union Local 17. As a teenager, I volunteered with Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers. I have been a consistent supporter of workers’ rights because it is union organizing that creates a fair, safe and equitable workforce. Hollywood is made up of union labor and some of the employees of the Academy Museum are already members of unions across the industry and deserve the same kinds of protections and bargaining power regarding wages, hours and safety.”
Official recognition from the museum would allow AMWU to avoid a lengthy election process through the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB manages unionization efforts in the private sector. Such elections are both lengthy and costly for workers and employers, and voluntary recognition from an organization can save time and money.
An additional press conference had been planned for July 6, where workers were scheduled to speak. However, just hours before the scheduled 8:45 a.m. start time, the conference was canceled. A statement from the union indicated that the cancellation could have been connected to the museum’s cooperation with the organization.
“Leadership of Academy Museum Workers United are in productive conversations with our employer, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures,” read the statement. “In light of these developments, we’ve decided to suspend our Wednesday morning press conference to allow for continued conversations.”
Prior to the cancellation, workers had expressed the necessity for a union, citing concerns with working conditions.
“As a worker of the Academy Museum, I care about our workplace, colleagues and guests,” visitor experience associate Viviana Santillan said. “I see the possibilities for us all to embody the mission and vision of the museum but unfortunately, I do not always feel safe and supported in my role. With our union, we seek to have a workplace with checks and balances. With our union, we seek to have job security and a voice on the job, a formal way to speak out when things aren’t working. Unions are workers coming together, without fear, to fight for what they deserve. It is for this reason that I continue to fight for a workplace where the voice of the worker is heard, taken seriously and acted upon.”
The Academy Museum did not respond to a request for comment.
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