This afternoon, the security staff at the Frye Museum voted to formally recognize their union, the Art Workers Union, making the Frye the first museum in Seattle with a unionized staff. In a 6-0 vote, the AWU received unanimous support from the workers. This vote comes after CEO Joseph Rosa and the museum's board of directors declined to voluntarily recognize the union a week and a half ago, instead bringing the National Labor Relations Board to oversee an employee election.
According to the press release, Frye management challenged the eligibility of 5 of the 11 voters, calling them "supervisors," and thus, under the rules laid out by the NLRB, ineligible to participate in the union vote. AWU expressed dismay at this decision and said that they will continue to fight for these workers' right (and desire) to be included in the union.
In a statement, Caitlin Lee—a security guard and founding member of AWU—said, “Art and museum workers around the country are organizing because without a change we can't afford to keep working in the field we love. We encourage other Seattle museum workers to take a bold step forward and organize their workplaces."
In New York last week, Hyperallergic reports that 82% of administrative and cinema staff at the Brooklyn Academy of Music voted to favor to unionize, joining workers at other NYC art institutions like Guggenheim Museum, Tenenment Museum, and New Museum who have unionized.
The AWU are now calling on Frye management to meet with the union to begin bargaining. In previous interviews, the AWU has emphasized better pay, better scheduling, and health care, as key points to raise in negotiations, citing rising rent prices in Seattle.
Sander Moberg, AWU member and security worker, said in a statement that they are "excited to help the museum become [an] even better institution that holds itself accountable to the community it serves." The union also cites that they received help from the Seattle DSA's Workplace Organizing Collective.
A representative from the Frye did not immediately respond when asked for comment, but I'll update when I hear back from them.
Update at 4:01pm: here's the Frye's statement:
"As all eligible staff have now had their chance to formally vote, the Frye respects the results of the election and recognizes our security staff’s right to collectively bargain as the Art Workers Union. We look forward to a productive discussion approached in good faith. The Frye remains committed to providing an inclusive and respectful environment for all of its staff, volunteers, and visitors."