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Profile of Private Nonprofit Art Museum Unions

In this section, we examine the characteristics of all private nonprofit art museum unions in our dataset. A union is defined as a group of workers who join together to collectively bargain for a shared contract. Since the terms union, unit, and local, can be defined and applied differently depending on context—and may often be used interchangeably in everyday conversation despite nuanced legal differences—we chose to distinguish unions by separate contracts, even if that differs from how the union in question would describe itself.8 We are actively seeking more information about any union that predates 2019. Please fill out the COMMENT button to contribute.

Institutional Overview

Regional Distribution9 of Unionized Private Nonprofit Art Museums

The vast majority of private nonprofit art museums with unions are located in the Mid-Atlantic (X%), with the largest density of unionized workers at art museums in New York City, followed by (in no particular order) the Western (X%), Midwest (X%), New England (X%), and Mountain Plains (X%) regions. Currently, the Southeast region is without a single private nonprofit art museum union. For context, the Mid-Atlantic accounts for only 16% of all private nonprofit art museums in the US overall.10 This discrepancy between the regional densities of museums versus unionized museums opens up questions around other possible explanations, such as regional differences in labor laws.

Operating Budgets of Unionized Private Nonprofit Art Museums

Over half (X%) of private nonprofit art museums with unions have annual operating budgets of more than $20 million. This statistic is particularly notable in the context of an oft-repeated fear: can the museum afford to have a union?11

Number of Separate Union Contracts at Private Nonprofit Art Museums

Union overview

Union Sizes in Private Nonprofit Art Museums

We collected the bargaining unit size (number of members that a union represents) from a variety of sources including the union’s self-reported data, the National Labor Relations Board, HR or management’s records, and news articles. Please note that these reports sometimes vary significantly, and the size of a bargaining unit often shifts over time as museums grow, downsize, and/or reorganize their staff. Based on our best estimates, a plurality of art museum unions (for which we have any data at all) represent 51–100 members (X%), followed by (in no particular order) 101–200 members (X%), less than 20 members (X%), 20–50 members (X%), and more than 200 members (X%).

Parent Union Affiliation of Unions in Private Nonprofit Art Museums

Parent unions United Auto Workers (UAW) 2110 and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represent more than half (X%) of unionized workers in our dataset, but there are many unions who have sought representation elsewhere or have gone independent. (See “parent union” and “parent union acronyms” in the Glossary of Terms for more.)

Positions Represented by Private Nonprofit Art Museum Unions

According to the data we have, the positions most likely to be included in a private nonprofit art museum union are those within “building operations” (X%).12 By contrast, only around half of the museum unions in our dataset represent positions within the Administration (X%), Collections (X%), and Communications (X%) departments. Visit the Union Index and filter by Unit Composition to view which units represent workers from specific departments.

  1. ^ The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), for example, employs workers who are represented by (1) UAW Local 2110, (2) IUOE Local 877, (3) IBEW Local 103, (4) IUPAT District Council 35, (5) UA Local 51, and (6) UBC Local 327.the five trade unions (#2–6) negotiate a single contract together. MFA also employed security staff who were represented by a longstanding independent union (MISU). As of April 2024 after two years of negotiations, they will remain represented by MISU but are now subcontracted rather than employed directly by the MFA. Therefore, three unions at the MFA are featured in the Index, based on the three different contracts there.
  2. ^ Regions align with the Association of Art Museum Directors' definitions. They are Southeast (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV, and PR), Mountain Plains (CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX, WY), Western (AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, NV, OR, UT, WA), New England (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT), Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA), and Midwest (IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, OH, WI).
  3. ^ For this data point, we analyzed data from the report by Lisa M. Frehill and Marisa Pelczar, Data File Documentation: Museum Data Files, Institute of Museum and Library Services, November 2018. We determined the subset “private nonprofit art museums” with the following tags: Art, IRS registered nonprofits, and no academic institution affiliation. See “Regional distribution of private nonprofit art museums overall” in the Glossary of Terms for full data.
  4. ^ See Anni Irish, Museum Workers Are Tired of Being Paid in Cultural Cachet — So They’re Unionizing, Jacobin, August, 19, 2023; Sarah Resnick, Issues & Commentary: Organizing the Museum, ARTnews, April 1, 2019; and Sravya Tadepalli, Unionizing small nonprofits brings unique challenges and benefits, Prism, January 10, 2024.
  5. ^ Building operations encompasses art preparation, gardens/grounds, facilities, food services, security, retail and store, exhibitions design, and janitorial work. See “department” in the Glossary of Terms for the classification of all departments by roles.