A union is a democratic organization of people working together to change or preserve aspects of their workplace through collective action and collective bargaining. A union contract (collective bargaining agreement, or CBA) is a legally-binding and enforceable document where these agreements are put in writing.Those benefits cannot be changed unilaterally by the employer without negotiating with the union.
Why did we unionize and what do we hope to achieve?
The United Museum Workers are joining our voices to collectively advocate for a more positive workplace that can best serve staff AND our community. The staff at CMP began organizing in late 2019, and there has never been a better time for workers to join together in raising issues and finding solutions. Museum workers across the country are initiating a wave of union organizing; the United Museum Workers is our ripple in that wave.
The United Museum Workers value equity, transparency, safety, and solidarity. With our union in place, we will bargain for a legally binding contract to guarantee real change. For more details, check out our Mission Statement.
What’s the status of our union?
Our union won its election in December 2020 by a 79% vote margin, and we have been certified by the NLRB as the official collective bargaining representative for eligible workers at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (CMP).
Our bargaining committee was elected in March 2021, and has distributed a bargaining survey to eligible employees. This will help catalogue and prioritize the concerns and opinions of what workers want to improve upon, and what working conditions should be retained.
The collective bargaining negotiations start at the existing level of wages and benefits that workers have now, and the contract will fight to improve upon those conditions.
How do I find out if I’m in the bargaining unit or not?
All CMP employees who are not supervisors, temporary workers, or already represented by another union are in the UMW bargaining unit.
My position was contested by CMP during the election as possibly ineligible.
I’m a new employee and I’m not sure if I’m included or not!
The Contract Action Team (CAT) is a network of our co-workers who help plan meetings, share information from the bargaining committee to our general membership and vice versa, and serve as a resource for members to share any issues or concerns (for example, you can alert a CAT member if management does not maintain the status quo). The CAT has distributed the bargaining survey that will help the Bargaining Committee build our first contract. If you’re interested in joining the CAT, write us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What are my Legal Rights?
CMP employees can talk about non-work issues during work hours, and therefore can briefly converse about union activity while on the clock. However, as a best practice, in-depth conversations about the union should happen on breaks or after work.
CMP employees have the right to wear union insignia, such as buttons, at work.
You have the right to have a shop steward or staff representative (union representation) during an investigatory interview, especially if you think the interview will result in disciplinary action. Contact your museum Contract Action Team (CAT) representative for more information.
On December 23, 2020, we received our certification, and the United Museum Workers gained more power in our workplace. CMP must maintain the same wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment that existed prior to the union’s existence. If management wants to change anything, they must give UMW notice and an opportunity to bargain. This includes changes to job descriptions and changes to workplace safety rules. This does not mean the terms of your employment cannot change - it just means that the union must be notified first.
How do union dues work?
There are no dues until after a first contract is negotiated and voted into effect by a majority of the members. Union dues, about 1.45% of your gross earnings plus 2 cents per hour, may be collected by payroll deduction according to the union contract. Your dues support all the activities of your union. Slightly more than half goes to the United Steelworkers, who provide us with counsel in bargaining and enforcing our contract, and many other professional services. The other 44% is retained by the UMW to be used as we decide together.
Why affiliate with the United Steelworkers?
The earliest activists among CMP staff met with several unions before selecting the United Steelworkers (USW) for representation. USW represents thousands of workers across many diverse industries, such as arts and humanities, civil service, finance, forestry, health care, higher education, law, manufacturing, metals, paper, pharmacies and pharmaceuticals, and transportation. The USW, with its roots in the Pittsburgh-area steel mills dating back to the 1870’s, is now the largest industrial union in North America with nearly 1.2 million active and retired members.
There is an ironic historical echo in affiliating with the Steelworkers. The Carnegie Museums were founded in 1895 by steel giant Andrew Carnegie - who was notoriously anti-union in his labor practices. Museum staff was also inspired and encouraged by the success of the staff at the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh organizing with USW in 2019 - a similarly-beloved nonprofit that is dear to the Pittsburgh community.
How do workers decide what to include in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA)?
The elected bargaining committee will survey all of our coworkers to determine what is important to us: which improvements are top priorities, as well as which aspects of our workplace should be preserved. It is important to be honest, open and thorough when completing this survey.
Our bargaining committee will then sit with management representatives as equals to negotiate an agreement.
The bargaining committee will communicate with employees throughout this process, asking for opinions about certain issues and reporting back about progress.
When our bargaining committee and CMP’s representatives have what is known as a “tentative agreement,” we will have a chance to vote on whether to approve the contract or not. If we reject it, we go back to the bargaining table until we have a contract we ratify and approve, together.
What are some of our initial priorities for collective bargaining?
We have heard the following concerns or priorities from CMP staff throughout the campaign: health & safety concerns in the workplace; opportunity for promotion or advancement; a living wage and fair compensation; benefits for part-time staff; parental leave; and a commitment to DEAI practices.
It is typical for union contracts to include: provisions governing furloughs, layoffs, and recall rights when jobs reopen; union representation in contract-related disputes; employee rights with regard to formal disciplinary actions; and the mechanism for enrolling union members at hiring.
What happens after a contract is approved and ratified?
After the first contract is ratified by the general membership, UMW will elect officers and other delegates from the bargaining unit to serve as stewards. Stewards will offer support to workers during any problems (‘grievances’) that may arise in the workplace and serve as a conduit between the union officials and all workers within the union. They will also ensure that management abides by the provisions of the contract. Those elected as stewards will receive training from USW on their roles and responsibilities.