Local 126 unanimously ratifies first union contract

AFSCME Local 126 members have ratified their first Union contract with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

This first contract comes two years after MOCA employees first unionized with AFSCME District Council 36. The historic agreement has major economic wins, such as between a 15.25% and 20.35% raise over 3 years, vacation days for part-time and temporary employees, health insurance for part-time employees, and a $250 stipend for uniforms. “The biggest win would have to be getting a fair wage, especially for sales associates in the retail department,” said Ace Ubas, an AFSCME Local 126 member. “Getting a fair wage for sales associates not only means a higher wage, but also no longer being the lowest paid position in the entire museum. Sales Associates are public-facing employees that interact with visitors while also having the responsibility of selling merchandise and highly valued artwork.” Non-economic wins include strong language on harassment, discrimination, health & safety, and performance evaluations. The Local 126 bargaining team also negotiated a robust grievance process.

Negotiating the first Union contract can be an extremely long, difficult process, but negotiating in the midst of a global pandemic, can make negotiating 10 times worse. Shortly after the pandemic began, MOCA furloughed a significant portion of the bargaining unit, which slowed down the negotiating momentum. However, the remaining members stayed committed. “A lot of people had moved on from MOCA when a lot of us were furloughed or laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, which was understandable,” said Ubas. “But when numbers lessened, the Union movement stayed strong. The Union only grew stronger when new employees were hired as the museum started to re-open. And to reach this point of having a Union contract really shows how all of our hard work has paid off. It's such an amazing feeling!”

Throughout the negotiations process, Local 126 members continued to bring awareness to their contract fight by passing out leaflets to the community. The community stood in solidarity with Union members. They helped push negotiations forward by reaching out to MOCA’s management, which resulted in management responding more quickly to proposals. 

“ASCME Local 126 members have secured a momentous first contract,” said Walter Blair, Administrator of AFSCME District Council 36. “The strength of this first agreement is indicative of the unwavering commitment and unity of these members and is precedent setting for cultural workers across the country.”