Field Museum workers file for union election

Staff members are pushing for a vote on whether to affiliate with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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The Field Museum and Lake Michigan seen from the rooftop of 1629 S. Prairie Ave. in the South Loop neighborhood,  Aug. 4, 2022.

A group calling itself Field Museum Workers United has requested a union election.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Staff at the Field Museum said Tuesday they have filed for a union representation election to decide if they join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The workers, who would affiliate with AFSCME’s Council 31, filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago. Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said the petition included signed union cards from “a strong majority” of about 300 people in the proposed bargaining unit.

The group, calling itself Field Museum Workers United, would cover a range of job categories, including collections and exhibitions workers, visitor service representatives, research scientists and groundskeepers.

In November, the employees called on museum CEO Julian Siggers to voluntarily recognize the union, thus avoiding an election. Siggers refused to do so.

Lindall said the museum has only “paid lip service” to supporting workers’ right to organize while urging them to reject union membership.

“We’ve anticipated this development and look forward to hearing every eligible employees’ voice during the union election,” said museum public relations director Bridgette Russell.

Lindall said the museum has pushed a hard-line anti-union message that does not reflect the spirit of the organizing campaign.

“The employees love the museum. It’s a great institution. They also want it to be a great place to work,” Lindall said, citing concerns that include job protections, higher pay and clear paths for advancement.

The NLRB could schedule an election in the coming weeks. The museum could file an objection to the workers’ petition that would trigger a hearing by the federal agency.

Workers at the Art Institute of Chicago, its school and the Newberry Library have affiliated with AFSCME.

Known mostly for representing government employees, AFSCME said it also represents 10,000 museum workers and 25,000 library workers at public and private organizations.

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