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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Workers Form Union, Joining Wave Of Organizing Cultural Institution Employees

The new union will represent 45 employees across the Nature Museum's guest experience, education, biology and collections departments.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive.
Facebook/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
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LINCOLN PARK — Workers at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and its off-site collections facility in Ravenswood are unionizing.

Ballots from a union election were counted Thursday, and 89 percent of the 35 voters favored forming a union. The union, known as Chicago Academy of Sciences Workers United, will be represented by AFSCME Council 31.

The Nature Museum workers are latest group of Chicago-area cultural workers to organize with AFSCME in the last year and a half, union leaders said. Workers at the Art Institute of Chicago, School of the Art Institute, Newberry Library and Field Museum have all recently joined AFSCME, and workers at the Museum of Science & Industry have filed for a union election.

The new Nature Museum union will represent 45 employees who work in the institution’s guest experience and engagement, education, biology and collections departments, union leaders said.

“I’m excited that workers from all different departments at the Nature Museum came together to approve our union,” said Amy Morton, teacher programs manager and a union organizing committee member. “I think everyone is looking forward to our voices being heard as we negotiate with management to put together a contract that reflects the value of the work we do everyday.”

Erin Amico, the recently appointed president and CEO of the museum, said the institution will “respect the decision of our employees.”

“We look forward to reaching an agreement,” Amico said.

Efforts to unionize at the museum started in March when 19 employees signed an open letter expressing their intent to form a union so they can be included in decision-making processes, secure better wages and benefits, guarantee transparency around pay and advancement and improve safety conditions.

“With our union, I look forward to having a voice in the decisions that affect my daily life and physical safety at work,” said Jessy Rose Williams, an exhibit fabricator and technician who’s also a member of the organizing committee.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, also known as the Chicago Academy of Sciences, was founded in 1857 by a group of nature lovers and amateur scientists who wanted a space to study and share the specimens they collected.

The academy became Chicago’s first public museum when it opened Downtown in 1869. After the first museum building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, the academy established a museum at the Laflin Building in Lincoln Park.

The Nature Museum moved to its current location in 1999 after making a deal with the Park District to transfer its Laflin Building to the Lincoln Park Zoo in exchange for being able to build a museum on Park District property.

The Nature Museum recently increased admission fees to generate more revenue.

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