MFA Union On Strike November 17

Administration Nickle and Dimeing Staff

By: - Nov 12, 2021

BOSTON, MA (November 12, 2021)—Over 96% of staff at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,voted to strike on Wednesday, November 17 in support of a fair union contract. Workers in departments across the Museum will picket at 465 Huntington Avenue that day starting at 8:30 am. The MFA Union includes curators, conservators, library workers, public-facing staff, educators, and administrative and professional workers.

“We’ve been bargaining for more than seven months but progress has been painfully slow,” said Haley Rayburn, a union negotiating committee member. “Our wages have been frozen since the beginning of the pandemic. The museum isn’t willing to guarantee salary increases for staff until 2024—and even then they’ll only commit to a 1.75 percent raise.” 

Workers point to the large gap between their salaries and those of MFA executives.  MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum’s 2020 salary of $992,414 is almost nineteen times the average worker salary of $53,400. “Livable wages for everyone and workplace rights are issues we hope to address through a fair contract,” said Eve Mayberger, an assistant conservator at the Museum.  “Boston is a very expensive place to live, and it can be a struggle to meet basic expenses, like housing and transportation,”

Many workers are also upset that the museum is pursuing costly hearings at the National Labor Relations Board over the size and scope of the Union’s bargaining unit. The MFA has challenged the eligibility of approximately a quarter of the positions in the unit, most of them in coveted high level positions such as Curators and Conservators. “The legal fees for these hearings are prohibitive for both the MFA and our Union,” said Haley Rayburn, a member of the negotiating committee. “The museum could be putting these costs toward a contract. Instead they’d rather spend money trying to shrink our unit and weaken our bargaining leverage.”

The museum workforce was dramatically reduced during the pandemic through layoffs, early retirements, and furloughs.  Since then, the MFA has been slow to refill positions and has experienced additional turnover because of resignations. A smaller staff has meant even heavier workloads for many.  “People are being asked to do more for less. Most of us love the work we do and want to stay in this profession,” said Eve Mayberger. “But we deserve a fair contract from the MFA. We hope this strike demonstrates just how valuable we are to the institution.”