Union organizing wave reaches Museum of Science and Industry

Workers announce a campaign to affiliate with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

SHARE Union organizing wave reaches Museum of Science and Industry
The aviation exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Workers at the Museum of Science and Industry have announced their intent to organize a union.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

More museum workers in Chicago want to join the march to unionization.

The Museum of Science and Industry is the latest institution where workers want to affiliate with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The workers made their campaign public Wednesday in a letter carrying 54 signatures. The letter asks colleagues to support the movement for pay equity, more professional development and zero tolerance of discrimination.

Organizers said the bargaining unit would cover 140 employees in the guest experience, guest operations and education departments,

The letter also asks management to recognize the union and not waste money on “union-busting tactics.” Employers usually react to union organizing by forcing a secret ballot election managed by the National Labor Relations Board.

The museum said in an email that it will insist on employees’ right to a private vote.

It said that it “is an actively pro-employee institution and work environment. MSI respects its employees’ rights to choose to unionize if they believe that is appropriate.

“As an institution, we are proud of the culture we have instilled and the actions we have taken to be inclusive and transparent with our employees. A huge part of our long-term strategy has been and will continue to be focused on recruiting, retaining and rewarding employees. Compensation is an important component of that plan, and we’re always looking at market data to ensure we’re paying a competitive wage and we make adjustments when appropriate. In addition, MSI has a very active open-door policy for all staff members to engage about any and all issues and opportunities — the CEO even makes her personal cellphone available to all employees.”

Micah Smith, a guest engagement facilitator, said workers want to fix pay inequities that exist in all museum departments. He said staffers also face high rates of turnover and burnout.

Smith has worked at the museum for about eight months. Handling tours of its coal mine is among his duties.

He said the campaign has started with strong worker support that’s growing every day. Smith said he knows of no retaliation or threats from management.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for Council 31, said management is trying a “charm offensive” by organizing all-staff lunches.

The letter said, “Despite MSI’s nonprofit status, upper management at the Museum benefit from a structure of corporate greed while many staff members continue to struggle with food insecurity and housing instability due to earnings that pale in comparison.”

Council 31 has had a string of organizing victories here involving workers at the Art Institute of Chicago and its school, the Field Museum and Newberry Library. Workers at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum are seeking affiliation with the union.

About 60 craftspeople and laborers at MSI are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Lindall said.

The Latest
Messi was officially named to Argentina’s 29-man roster on Monday for a pair of friendlies before Copa America.
Witnesses saw the baker pull a gun during a brawl at the River North restaurant on Friday and thought they heard gunshots. The baker has a valid Firearm Owner Identification card but is not a concealed carry license holder.
Agnieszka Rydzewski es acusada de solicitar el asesinato de Arturo Cantú, quien presuntamente fue asesinado a tiros a principios de esta semana por Anthony Calderón en un triángulo amoroso en los suburbios del suroeste.
A City Council vote on $70 million in migrant funding highlighted the situation faced by communities like South Shore: Migrants have been resettled in Black communities where people have been fighting for decades for development and resources.
Al dictar la sentencia, la jueza Virginia Kendall le dijo a Janice Weston: “Es muy preocupante. Tuviste unos momentos en los que sabías que era ilegal y pudiste irte”.