The Portland Museum of Art will make one-time payments to more than a dozen former employees to settle a complaint of unfair labor practices.

The complaint was filed last year with the National Labor Relations Board around the same time 14 “gallery ambassadors” were fired prior to a vote that created a union for employees.

Union organizers challenged the museum’s decision at the time, but the NLRB ultimately agreed with management that the ambassadors – who were responsible for providing customer service, education and exhibit interpretation at the museum – were security employees and not eligible for representation by the United Auto Workers Local 2110, the Technical, Office and Professional Union.

Maida Rosenstein, the union’s president, said even though the labor board sided with the museum about the status of those employees, the union felt the museum exhibited “anti-union animus.”

Rather than continue the fight, the museum agreed to settle. According to the settlement agreement reached on March 11, 13 of the employees who were let go will receive payments of $2,000 and one will receive $30,000.

“It’s been a long road at the Portland Museum, but we’re glad to see these workers get some compensation for their losses,” Rosenstein said. “We’re pleased there was a settlement that was worked out, and also that there has been some change in the relationship between the union and museum that will help establish a better relationship going forward.”


Museum spokesman Graeme Kennedy declined to comment on the details of the settlement.

“We have a contract that is fair and working, and the institution and staff have moved forward in good faith,” he said.

Museum employees voted in April 2021 to join the New York-based union, which also represents workers at several other museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Museum employees first 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. Since then, the relationship has improved. The first labor contract, ratified in November, runs through September 2024. The union represents about half of all museum employees, or about 40 full- and part-time positions.

Following the layoffs of the gallery ambassadors last year, the museum added back five full-time positions and some seasonal positions as well.

Although a settlement agreement has been reached, the case will remain open at the labor board until the museum fulfills all its requirements, including payments and notifying past and current employees about the settlement.

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