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Employees at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago join union

The workers’ decision follows a similar vote for unionization by the workers at the museum.

Employees of the Art Institute of Chicago and its school attend a rally in November to support the drive to unionize.
Employees of the Art Institute of Chicago and its school attend a rally in November to support the drive to unionize.
Jason Beeferman/Sun-Times file

Employees at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago have voted to unionize, a day after museum staffers affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The school’s employees voted in an election of mailed-in ballots supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB said the vote tally was 115-48, with 44 ballots not counted due to management challenges.

“I voted ‘yes’ because in nine years of working at SAIC my largest raise was 49 cents. We deserve equity, respect and a living wage,” said Rachel Perlman, a receptionist.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME’s Council 31, said the school’s union will cover about 250 employees. The bargaining unit would be about the same size as the one for the museum’s workers, which became official Tuesday. The NLRB said the result in that election was 142-44, with 20 votes challenged.

Bree Witt, communications director for the school, said, “As we have said from the start, we fully respect our employees’ right to decide whether or not they want to join a union. The school intends to enter into good faith bargaining with AFSCME to negotiate an initial collective bargaining agreement that best meets the needs of all parties to the contract while allowing us to continue to deliver on our mission of providing a world-class art and design education.”

The next step for both bargaining units is to negotiate their first contracts. Lindall said this is the first time that workers at the museum or its school have been unionized.