Academy Museum Employees Launch Attempt at Unionizing

"It is time those who work in preserving and celebrating art, in this case the art of cinema, have a voice on the job," one of the effort's organizers said in a statement.
FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2018, file photo, is a view of the recently restored facade of the Saban Building from the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. After 8 years and 13,000 donors including the likes of Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has reached and exceeded its pre-fundraising goal. Academy Museum director and president Bill Kramer said Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, that the new museum has raised $388 million. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Big changes may soon be coming to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Less than a year after the museum’s flashy launch, a group of employees is actively seeking to form a union (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The group of organizers is calling themselves Academy Museum Workers United (AMWU), and is seeking voluntary recognition from the Academy. If that is not granted, they intend to submit a petition to the National Labor Relations Board. Their current plan is to form a union with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), with the local chapter AFSCME Council 36 representing the Academy Museum employees after the arrangement is finalized.

In a statement, several museum employees, from both the front and back of the house, expressed why they felt this was the time to unionize.

“We are thrilled to be forming our union, Academy Museum Workers United, because it is time those who work in preserving and celebrating art, in this case the art of cinema, have a voice on the job,” said retail sales associate Sarah Stearn. “All workers deserve respect and a say in our working conditions and the direction of our work. For this museum to be successful, its workers must be safe and respected.”

“We believe in the Academy Museum’s mission to be radically inclusive, and we believe in our mission as staff to be of service and to be agents of positive change in our community,” added assistant curator J. Raúl Guzmán. “Through our union, we believe we can set industry standards for cultural institutions around the world — standards that improve job security, fair and livable wages, and safety for all workers.”

The Academy Museum first opened its doors in the fall of 2021, and the endeavor has gotten off to a rocky start. In addition to the pandemic delaying its opening, the museum almost immediately faced criticism about what some perceived to be a lack of diversity. The museum quickly tried to rectify that by announcing a new season that includes several exhibits highlighting Black filmmakers.

IndieWire has reached out to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for comment.

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