Chicago Field Museum workers announce union organizing drive

Workers at Chicago’s Field Museum went public Thursday with a drive to unionize with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, following campaigns among employees at the Art Institute of Chicago and its school and the Newberry Library.

Museum workers issued a public letter signed by 63 people about why they want to unionize. The announcement is intended to generate more support for union affiliation among the staff.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, said the proposed bargaining unit would include 330 museum employees. To be certified for collective bargaining, a majority of those workers need to support the union. The employer can ask for a federally run election to prove that support.

"Our skills and our experience are invaluable to the success of the museum. It’s time for our voices to be heard and respected," the employees wrote. "Only by forming a union will we win the respect and dignity at work that we deserve. We care deeply about the Field Museum and want to uphold its mission while improving our work environment."

Lindall said the bargaining unit would cover workers in a range of duties including collections assistants, exhibit designers, building attendants and groundskeepers.


There was no immediate comment from the museum. Among the largest institutions for natural history in the world, the museum was founded in 1894 and counts more than 40 million artifacts and specimens.

Council 31 represents staff at the Art Institute and is seeking to represent faculty members at its school. Lindall said a union election has been scheduled for Nov. 1 at the Newberry.

Known mostly for representing government employees, AFSCME said it also represents 10,000 museum workers and 25,000 library workers at public and private organizations.