Art Institute workers vote to become first major Chicago museum to unionize

Workers at the Art Institute of Chicago became the first major museum to unionize in the Windy City.

A "strong majority" of employees at the museum voted in favor of unionizing Tuesday, forming the Art Institute of Chicago Workers United which will be a local union under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The new union will be composed of over 250 workers ranging from custodians to curators and beyond. The National Labor Relations Board oversaw the mail-in election, saying the vote was 142-44, with 20 votes challenged.

"Winning our union means a voice in our workplace and a chance to improve working conditions for ourselves, our colleagues, and those who will follow us for generations to come," archivist Anna Feuer said in a statement.


Staff at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago also voted to join with Art Institute of Chicago Workers United. The NLRB said the vote tally was 115-48, with 44 ballots not counted due to management challenges.

Kati Murphy, executive director of public affairs at the Art Institute, said they support the workers' right to unionize.

"As promised from the start, we fully respect our employees’ decision to join a union. The museum intends to enter into good faith bargaining with AFSCME to negotiate an initial collective bargaining agreement that best meets the needs of all parties involved while allowing us to continue to deliver on our mission," Murphy said.

New union members are beginning to prepare for negotiations for their first contract.

The Art Institute is one of the oldest museums in the United States dating back to 1879.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.