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Field Museum Leadership Declines To Voluntarily Recognize Union, Setting Up Labor Board Vote

The issue will now be forced to a vote, which will need majority approval for the union to be established and recognized.

Emma Turner-Trujillo (right) stands a press conference for Field Museum workers who are trying to fortify its union with museum administration.
Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Field Museum leaders will not voluntarily recognize Field Museum Workers United as the official union for employees, pushing the issue to a vote through the National Labor Relations Board.

Museum staff delivered a letter Tuesday to museum President and CEO Julian Siggers. The letter gave a Monday deadline for Siggers to sign the agreement recognizing the union and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 31 as the workers’ union representatives.

AFSCME Council 31 is the largest union for cultural workers nationwide.

“Working directly with employees, we have accomplished a great deal, including increased wages, inflation-related payments, and investments in DEAI initiatives, even as we battled the pandemic. We want to include all colleagues – every voice – in a decision about unionization,” a museum spokesperson said in a statement. “Every eligible employee should have the opportunity to participate in an election, and so we are declining to voluntarily recognize the union.”

More than half of Field Museum employees have signed union authorization cards, organizers previously said, as they push to formally unionize and bargain for better pay and benefits.

In a press conference Tuesday, workers expressed concerns over alleged “union busting” tactics by the museum administration to deter staff from organizing and signing union authorization cards.

Those concerns continue with the refusal to voluntarily recognize Field Museum Workers United, organizers said.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised that management has refused to recognize our coworkers’ majority support for our union, Field Museum Workers United. Management also refused to drop its anti-union campaign that is wasting time and money interfering with our right to organize,” a spokesperson for Field Museum Workers United said in a statement.

Some of those “union busting” tactics include leadership “hiring an anti-union law firm,” “telling staff they are not eligible for the union” and “holding required staff meetings to discourage union participation,” workers previously said.

“We are forming our union because we love the Field Museum, because our labor makes the Museum happen, and because we deserve an equal voice in the decisions that affect us. We’re going to keep talking to every colleague, building our majority even stronger, and preparing to file for and win our union election despite management’s resistance to equitably shared power,” a spokesperson for Field Museum Workers United continued.

A majority vote in favor of the union will certify the group, said Anders Lindall, director of public affairs for AFSCME Council 31.