Museums Moving Forward logo

Strike Actions

In this spotlight, we dig into strike actions by private nonprofit art museum unions. We defined “strike actions” as either a “strike,” where a temporary work stoppage is held by workers to support their demands on an employer, or a “threatened strike,” where membership votes to strike or publicly announces plans for a strike. Strikes, while not limited to the realm of organized labor, are often associated with unionized workplaces and constitute a powerful tool available to workers: withholding their labor often builds considerable leverage during contract negotiations. Strikes are a last resort and are only voted for by union membership after all other avenues for advancing contract negotiations have been exhausted.

Of the campaigns we’ve followed, most (X%) have been able to ratify a first contract without a strike action. As of March 2024, the vast majority of strike actions have taken place during a first contract campaign and resulted in a tentative agreement on contract terms from management. Of actions that have resulted in a temporary work stoppage, the strikes range from one day to eight weeks29 in length, mirroring national trends.30

We began this research in 2023, a year of many high-profile strikes with broad public approval:31 50,000+ UAW members at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (notably, President Biden became the first sitting president to walk a picket line when he joined these auto workers in September 2023); 170,000+ SAG-AFTRA and Writer’s Guild actors and screenwriters; and thousands of other major labor actions by UPS drivers to nurses to Starbucks workers. A recent report from the Labor Action Tracker out of Cornell University and the University of Illinois documented a 9% increase in work stoppages from 2022 to 2023, also noting that the number of workers involved in these stoppages grew by 141% over the same year.32

Timeline of Strike Activity

Total Strikes or Threatened Strikes at Private Nonprofit Art Museums

How Strikes Have Played a Role in Contract Ratification

Percentage of private nonprofit art museum unions that have won contracts after striking or threatening to strike.