Walters Workers United

We won our June 15 union election with an overwhelming vote of 60-5!
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Workers at Walters Art Museum win union election
Walters Workers United, AFSCME joins continued movement of cultural workers unionizing in Maryland

Baltimore — Nearly 80 museum workers at the Walters Art Museum have overwhelmingly voted to form their union with AFSCME Maryland Council 3. The election was conducted by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) on Thursday, June 15th, 2023; workers voted 60 to 5 in favor of their union. The new bargaining unit will consist of staff from retail operations, conservation, curatorial, safety and security, building operations, marketing and communication, installation and collections, learning and community engagement, and others. Walters Workers United (WWU) first announced intentions to unionize in spring 2021. Workers formed their union to address concerns regarding health and safety, pay equity, a voice in the workplace, and paths to career advancement among other reasons.

Throughout the organizing process and the long road to this moment, workers steadfastly fought for a wall-to-wall union — one union for all workers across the museum. Workers felt strongly that they should not be divided into two different bargaining units with multiple unions.

“After more than two years of organizing, we are excited to see Walters Art Museum workers win their union election. Today’s victory brings Walters Workers United closer towards a workplace where their talent and contributions are valued and their input and voices are respected and heard. We’re honored to have the members of Walters Workers United as part of the AFSCME Maryland family because all workers deserve the right to organize for the pay, respect, and better working conditions we deserve,” said Patrick Moran, President of AFSCME Maryland Council 3.

This victory is the third big win in the past year for Baltimore’s cultural workers organizing with AFSCME. Last year, workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Enoch Pratt Free Library both won their union elections with AFSCME. This wave of organizing is part of a national movement of workers at cultural and arts institutions coming together and organizing with Cultural Workers United, AFSCME. CWU is a national program that has seen workers at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Chicago Sciences Academy, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Academy Museum, the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and other institutions organize and win.

Member Voices

I’m extremely glad that we’re organizing and I’m absolutely going to vote yes for our union. I came from an institution that was unionized and that makes a huge difference.

I believe a union would give us greater influence and ownership over our work culture.

We need a union at the Walters because the time has come to empower all employees, not just the ones at the top of the hierarchy.

I support the Walters Union because I want to be able to focus on doing my job well, with clarity, transparency, security, and support.
It’s amazing how we work together, as a team. With our union, we would lead together and become a transformative force. Let’s empower our work with fairness and transparency.
As we listen to and engage with communities across greater Baltimore, we must also advocate for more equitable structures within our own institution. In forming our union, we will be better equipped to secure our jobs, ensure living wages and healthcare for all, build and sustain ladders of opportunity, and clear pathways for career advancement. Together we can be a transformative force for change.
I have been with the Walters for 16 years and for the last 7 years, staff morale has been very low. I know that leadership is aware of the situation because they have hired 3 different external contractors to come in and listen to staff to assess the situation. Leadership has made efforts, but in order to really improve morale, staff at all levels need to be involved in the process. We need to unionize so we can work together as a whole to make the Walters a better workplace.
As a librarian and archivist, I am bound to professional codes of ethics that emphasize access, transparency, fairness, and mentorship. Unionizing will help promote these ideas further and strengthen the institution for all.
Issues like pay equity, transparency, employment security, and accountability need to be addressed and improved to protect the workers who make the Walters possible. The Walters is a gem in the city of Baltimore and a better Walters makes for a better Baltimore.