The union representing staff at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles announced on 15 May that it had successfully ratified its first contract with the museum’s administration. The museum and MOCA Union had been in negotiations for over two years.
The Covid-19 pandemic had played a role in slowing down negotiations and in sparking unionisation efforts. MOCA, like many museums across the country in 2020-21, was forced to furlough a large number of staff, which resulted in some delays in the bargaining process. Several leadership shakeups at the museum also slowed negotiations.
“It’s been a long process. We’ve definitely achieved a lot, but there is still more work to be done in terms of shaping the museum field and making jobs within it more sustainable,” says Olivia Leiter, who works in the education department at MOCA and was on the union’s organising committee. “We went public three years ago, and have been negotiating for over two years now. We’ve put a lot of time and work into this and I think there’s a general feeling of excitement.”
The news comes three years after forming their union with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 36. The MOCA bargaining unit has around 80 members across various departments including education, visitor engagement, exhibition production and retail.
Some highlights of the contract include pay raises of 15.25% and 20.35% over the next three years, vacation days for part-time and temporary employees, health insurance for part-time employees, supplemental paid parental leave and grievance procedure and arbitration protections. These terms represent a huge win for the union, which cited problems related to working conditions, job security, salary increases and more when it first formed.
"During my first six months at MOCA I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the passionate, dedicated team here, including those who are union members,” says MOCA director Johanna Burton. “All of us at MOCA are committed to supporting artists; creating warm, welcoming spaces for visitors at both our locations; and to presenting our exceptional exhibitions, programs, and collection. The ratification of the union contract marks an important moment and fills me with optimism as we look to MOCA’s next era.”