Employees of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) on August 15 ratified their first contract with management following fourteen months of bargaining. Under the four-year agreement, the more than five hundred workers, who in January 2022unionizedunder the auspices of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), will receive raises of between 12.25 and 16.25 percent, with the lowest-paid workers seeing the greatest gains. The ratification comes just days after staff at New York’s Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museumsigned their own contractwith management, hard-won after nearly two years of bargaining.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD The new contract awards members of the Art Institute of Chicago Workers United, which assimilates both AIC and SAIC workers, a minimum base wage of $17 per hour; this will rise to $18 in 2025. As well, improvements to health care are mandated, as are internal job postings, with qualified in-house applicants guaranteed an interview. The agreement also stipulates the creation of a joint committee comprising union and management representatives which is intended to prevent or troubleshoot problems arising, and assures the union and affected staff three weeks’ advance notice regarding layoffs.
The AIC was the first major Chicago arts institution to unionize, paving the way for the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Newberry Library to follow suit, which they have each done in the past year. The unionizations are part of a broader wave of organizing that has taken place across the United States in recent years, spurred by the Covid-19 crisis and the rise of Black Lives Matter. These two events touched off a reckoning regarding the pay gap at museums and the health risks and job precarity associated with many lower-paid, frequently public-facing positions, which have historically been more likely to be held by people of color..