Union Busting at Tacoma Art Museum!

The following was originally posted on the TAM Workers United website. 

In a rushed vote, the Tacoma Art Museum Board refused to voluntarily recognize TAM Workers United (TAMWU), which has over 80% support among employees.

A statement released by the museum illustrates a deliberate mischaracterization of what voluntary recognition of a union entails, despite workers’ efforts to educate the board in person and in writing since going public with their union drive. The statement also bears the marks of the outside counsel the museum recently hired, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, one of the largest “union avoidance” firms in the country. 

“Voluntary recognition is a legal pathway to unionization, categorizing it as anything else is simply misinformation and union busting,” said Eden Redmond, an institutional giving manager at TAM. “It’s disappointing, but we have great support from unions across Washington, the community in Tacoma, and workers at TAM, and we’re ready to keep going.”

“Again the board is making institutional decisions without the input from community or staff, showing they would rather rush to anti-union tactics than collaborate and hear from museum workers,” said Joe Liwag, a visitor services representative at TAM.

The museum’s willful ignorance about what, exactly, unions do has been a source of concern for TAM workers since the start of their union drive, and was again present in the museum’s statement. Workers’ good-faith attempts to educate the Board or at least delay a vote until they could become informed were in vain. 

“The Board described the union’s grievances as the result of bad behaviors and communication, and therefore outside the scope of what unions do,” Redmond said. “But that’s exactly what unions do- they make structural changes that secure workers rights no matter who is in power. We wanted to talk about a system, and they changed the subject to talk about individuals. This mischaracterizes our work and is a blatant union-busting tactic.”

Stephen Rue, lead preparator at TAM added, “Given that Thursday’s meeting was the first time the TAM Board has met since the unionization effort was made public one month ago, it is clear their denial was made in haste without fully understanding the legal process of voluntary recognition nor all the issues at stake.”

TAMWU understands that unions are not granted by employers, though they can be. They are voted into existence by workers themselves. If TAM workers need to create their union that way, without the good will of their employer, they are determined to do it. 

“TAMWU will continue forward, united as workers spanning all departments of our museum, to bring to the community the message that denial of voluntary recognition is unacceptable and unionization is key to fixing the systematic wrongs that the TAM Board is now hiding behind as reason for their refusal.”

Workers are calling on all their supporters to show up for Worker Solidarity Day at TAM tomorrow,  Saturday November 19.


About TAM Workers United

Staff at Tacoma Art Museum are choosing to form TAM Workers United to improve wages, working conditions, transparency and accountability from management, and to ensure an equitable future for the museum and their community. 

AFSCME represents more cultural workers than any other union, including 10,000 museum workers at 91 cultural institutions in the public and private sector, and more than 25,000 library workers at 275 public and private libraries.