NORTH ADAMS — Workers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will be represented by a national union, after federal labor officials counted votes Wednesday and found strong support among employees.
The question of affiliating with UAW Local 2110, AFL-CIO passed by a vote of 53-15. The tally came less than two months after museum employees filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to bargain collectively over their work conditions.
At 1:15 p.m., NLRB officials in Hartford, Conn., began counting votes that had been submitted by mail over the past three weeks, as representatives of the museum and union observed by videoconference, in a process closed to the media.
"It's extremely gratifying and fills me with hope and optimism about the future," said Amanda Tobin, a museum employee. "And helping to usher Mass MoCA into this new future."
Tracy Moore, the museum's interim director, said in a statement that the institution seeks to do right by its employees, saying it is "committed to continuing to build a culture where our employees feel valued and respected, and have the opportunity to contribute to the mission and grow as professionals."
"While we recognize the challenges we face as an institution, we believe in our staff and in our ability to meet these challenges together," Moore said. "We respect the choice to unionize and look forward to working with UAW Local 2110 in continuing to cultivate an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable workplace."
In all, 93 employees were eligible to vote. Twenty-five of those people did not cast mail-in ballots. The "yes" vote represented 78 percent of the ballots submitted to the NLRB.
Normally, the agency counts ballots with all sides in the room, according to Michael C. Cass, the officer in charge of the NLRB’s Hartford office. The coronavirus pandemic forced the agency to shift to videoconferences.
Tobin said employees plan to gather via a Zoom party Wednesday evening.
"We're going to celebrate and then we'll elect a bargaining committee," she said.
In the voting, a majority of employees opted to be considered a single bargaining unit, rather than dividing the workforce into two units, one for professionals and the other for nonprofessionals.
The museum said before the vote that it accepted the right of its workers to seek union representation and pledged to work to reach contracts that are good for workers and the institution.
In a March 17 statement, the museum said that if the union effort passes, “we have every reason to anticipate excellent labor-management relations and we will work toward the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement that is in the shared interest of the institution, our valued staff, and other dedicated stakeholders.”
Full-time and regular part-time workers who have been with the museum since at least March 21 were eligible to vote.
Workers announced March 8 that they filed for union representation with the NLRB. At the time, they noted what they viewed as low salaries and doubts about job security, in the wake of pandemic layoffs in 2020.
The union represents technical, office and professional workers in a range of workplaces, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.