The Portland Museum of Art and the newly formed union representing just under half of its employees have ratified their first three-year contract.

Despite previous clashes with museum management over the formation of the union and who would be included, the union president praised the museum for swift and cordial negotiations.

“Both parties worked hard to try to productively communicate and reach an agreement,” said Maida Rosenstein, president of United Auto Workers Local 2110, which organizes professionals and office staff, and represents about 40 full-time, regular part-time and on-call positions at the Portland museum. “We reached a first contract I would say in record time … and there was a real effort to try to reach an agreement without escalating any hostilities.”

She contrasted negotiations at the PMA with negotiations at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where employees frustrated with contract talks picketed last week. Rosenstein is leading the unionization effort at the MFA, which also involves a first-time contract. At the MFA, “negotiations have been somewhat contentious. I would say in Portland, the negotiations were not contentious,” she said.

Museum employees petitioned the National Labor Relations Board in October 2020, citing low pay and a lack of job security as their motives for seeking representation. At the time, there was tension between the parties, and employees complained of “union-busting” tactics by museum management. This spring, the museum prevailed in a dispute with union negotiators over whether security guards would be eligible for membership in the union, with the NLRB ruling in favor of the museum.

The museum and the UAW Local 2110 issued a joint news release last week announcing the agreement.

“We are pleased to have reached a contract agreement with Local 2110,” museum Director Mark Bessire said in a statement. “We deeply value all our staff and their contributions in fulfilling our Art for All mission. Together, we will continue to embody our values, reflect our communities, and create a unique, exceptional, and accessible center for art.”

Rosenstein said the contract resulted in “significant increases” in minimum rates for positions, which for some had been about $14 per hour, as well as a guaranteed increase in pay of 3 percent. Employees also improved their benefits related to health care and child care while establishing “all the basic functions of the contract, including enforceable grievance procedures and safety provisions.”

The museum employs about 100 people, so the union represents about 40 percent of the workforce, including full-time, regular part-time and on-call positions within the museum other than managers, supervisors and security guards.

In the joint news release, both sides pledged “to work together to support the mission of the museum, and its core values of courage, equity, service, sustainability, and trust.”

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