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Union says dates set for Art Institute vote

The workers will cast mailed-in ballots that will decide if they affiliate with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Art Institute workers on Monday held a news conference on the museum steps to accuse their bosses of threatening workers in possible retaliation for union activity. The museum denied those charges.
Art Institute workers on Monday held a news conference on the museum steps to accuse their bosses of threatening workers in possible retaliation for union activity. The museum denied those charges.
Jason Beeferman/Sun-Times

A federal agency has set dates for an election to decide if workers win collective bargaining rights at the Art Institute of Chicago and its school, a union said Tuesday.

About 600 workers will decide if they affiliate with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It would be the first time workers at the renowned museum have unionized, organizers have said.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for Council 31, said the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to the homes of eligible employees Dec. 8. The ballots must be returned by mail to the labor board and received by Jan. 10, he said.

The agency will count the ballots for Art Institute workers Jan. 11 and for those at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago the next day, Lindall said. A majority of the ballots cast decides the issue in each case.

Workers have cited better pay and a voice in decisions affecting them as key issues. The union has said “overwhelming majorities” of the workers have signed cards attesting to their desire to unionize and have called on management to remain neutral.

But the campaign has turned bitter. Workers on Monday held a news conference on the museum steps to accuse their bosses of threatening workers, wrongly telling them they were ineligible to vote and of giving poor performance reviews in possible retaliation for union activity.

The museum denied those charges and asserted it supports workers’ rights to decide freely about unionizing.