Walker Worker Union

A woman holding a sign that says a Union is a Voice
A woman holding a sign that says a Union is a community of care
A person holding a sign that says a Union is Worker Power
A woman holding a sign that says a Union is Unity
Two people holding signs, one saying a union is Duh! and the other saying a Union is Now!
Image of two people standing with a U shaped baloon in front of the Walker Art Center

About

In the fall of 2019, a group of our colleagues came together to discuss how we might leverage our collective power in order to build a more equitable Walker Art Center. Over the last year, this group has grown to encompass a majority of workers across the institution. Together, we are creating a community of care and a structure for all Walker staff to have a voice in the decisions that affect our work and our lives.

We are optimistic that the Walker can model a new path forward, one that helps push the field to become more transparent and inclusive. The first step toward shaping this new Walker is to ensure that all those who work here feel safe, valued, and heard.

The Walker can and should be a leader in the field. Change must come from every level of the organization, and unionization lays the foundation for this deep, lasting structural change. Once Walker workers are empowered, the institution will fundamentally shift. We believe this will change and improve how we connect with our colleagues, artists, local community, and beyond.

We care deeply about the Walker and we believe a better future is possible. We are the Walker and we stand together.

Our Values

We ensure the following principles guide our discussions, decisions, and actions.

We uphold Respect and Equity at the Walker Art Center.

We must feel safe, seen, and valued at the Walker. All staff should be able to express themselves without fear of hostility or retribution. We lift up marginalized voices, act fairly, and honor each individual’s contributions. Our power, skills, experience, and knowledge are essential to the institution and should be acknowledged and respected.

We advocate for Racial Justice and work to be Anti-Racist.

We acknowledge that museums perpetuate injustice as products of colonialism and capitalism, and the Walker must reckon with its own difficult and violent history. This extends from its founding with wealth and land dispossessed from the Dakota people to ongoing actions that center whiteness and perpetuate harm against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We are committed to dismantling the practices that uphold a culture of white supremacy and rebuilding a community that values and affirms all individuals holistically.

We fight for Fair Pay, Equal Representation, and Transparency.

We are professionals in our fields and are dedicated to using our abilities to create a better workplace. We value all the work that happens at the Walker and strive to reduce disparities in compensation. We believe in equity and transparency in pay scales across departments and levels. Decisions and planning should be a collective endeavor and our union will ensure all voices are heard and acknowledged.

We center the Health and Wellness of our community.

We believe health and wellness are necessary to create our best work. Strong health care and support systems are essential. Wellness includes a clear work/life balance and we cannot be overworked. We’re committed to addressing issues that are important to our members, such as parental leave and mental health.

We recognize the importance of Artists in expressing the diverse nature of human experience.

Artists are at the forefront of social movements and systemic change. As dedicated arts workers and artists ourselves, our labor and expertise can bring more inclusive and equitable perspectives to the Walker. We will support the best of what we do, making sure positive experiences are available to everyone, including staff, visitors, and community members.

We strive for Continuous Improvement individually, professionally, and as a community.

We invest in professional and personal development, lift up one another’s ideas, and foster positive relationships. We acknowledge that for the institution to thrive, we all must thrive. We take initiative and are always working toward better futures.

We act with Trust and Unity.

Trust reflects our reliance on one another and our belief in each member’s unique contribution to our path forward. We act with unity by engaging in hard conversations and believing that we all come to the table in good faith. Trust and unity are earned by respecting every individual’s agency, experiences, and abilities. Together, they strengthen all our other values.

Important Questions

If you are a Walker worker, our door is always open. We would love to talk with you about what has helped you succeed at work, your hopes for the Walker, and your vision for our union. You can connect with any member of the organizing committee directly or email us as a group at walkerworkerunion@gmail.com.

Why are we unionizing?

Every member has their own reasons for organizing, but as a group our goal is to work with the Walker’s management and leadership teams to create and sustain an equitable workplace, where all workers are empowered and have the chance to participate fully in the decision-making process. We want to ensure everyone has equal access to the Walker’s resources and has the support to do their best work.

What is the Walker Worker Union calling for? What are our demands?

We are calling for a workplace built on equity, dignity, and joy. We aren’t just creating a list of demands; instead, we want to partner with leadership to create structures that support workers in the long term, not just address immediate concerns.

Over time the needs of Walker workers will change. Forming a union is about setting up the structural conditions for workers to have a clear voice and representation as the Walker develops, improves, and changes, now and into the future.

How will this help the Walker?

This union formed from the belief that the Walker can continue to be a leader in the field—but only if all workers are recognized and valued for their contributions. Our union’s mission is to create a positive working environment for everyone. When we feel supported by and invested in our workplace, we do our best work and the Walker thrives. The union will help to foster relationships and structures that are beneficial while improving those that are challenging.

What are my rights as a worker to organize? What should I do if I think my rights are being infringed upon?

Organizing is a legally protected activity. It is illegal for an employer to fire or discipline anyone for organizing. We are free to attend organizing meetings, talk to each other about organizing, wear union buttons or T-shirts, or otherwise show public support for the union.

When we’re organized, we can come together to support and protect each other. Not only do your fellow union members have your back, there are systems in place to protect us during the process of unionizing.

If you think management is disciplining or punishing you for being part of union organizing, you should document the incident(s) and tell other people in our union.

What does it mean to join the Walker Worker Union? Do I have to pay dues?

Becoming a member of the union means joining a group dedicated to the success of the Walker and its workers. It’s an inclusive, collaborative, community-focused process and any eligible worker at the Walker can be a leader or active participant in the union. Together we decide our top priorities, organizational structure, goals, and yes—even dues. We won’t agree to a contract that is detrimental to us or the institution.

Many people are rightfully curious about the impact of union dues. There are a number of ways we can structure our dues, and we will set those terms together. Members of our union have the right to vote on our dues when we are negotiating our contract. We will determine the amount together in the bargaining process, so we can’t promise an exact number right now, but nobody will pay dues until we have a contract. Voting members’ dues cover the cost of collective bargaining, support member services, legal fees, group communications, and more.

What if my question isn’t answered here? Who do I talk to if I have more questions? How can I help?

If you have questions or want to get involved, do not hesitate to reach out to your coworkers or send an email to walkerworkerunion@gmail.com from your personal email. We want to hear your ideas and feedback and to learn about the experiences of workers in every position at the Walker. Our organizing committee has an open door—we would love to have you join us and help shape the direction and priorities of this effort!

Updates

December 1, 2020

It’s official! Our card check is complete and due to the overwhelming support of workers in our bargaining unit the Walker Worker Union has won voluntary recognition! We look forward to bargaining our first contract, continuing to build this community of care, and working with Walker leadership to create a structure for all Walker staff to have a voice in the decisions that affect our work and our lives. We are proud to join AFSCME and the ranks of unionized arts and cultural workers across the country.

November 17, 2020

We’re almost there! We have come to an agreement with Walker leadership and, pending a card check, our union will be recognized! We look forward to collaborating with leadership and management teams to create and sustain a more equitable workplace, where all workers are empowered and supported.

October 29, 2020

We've filed! While we had hoped to pursue a more collaborative process, we have now filed with the NLRB. So now it’s official and we’re excited for the next steps! Stay tuned for more.

October 29, 2020

We've filed! While we had hoped to pursue a more collaborative process, we have now filed with the NLRB. So now it’s official and we’re excited for the next steps! Stay tuned for more.

October 25, 2020

This week we brought a petition to management letting them know we want to work collaboratively to create a more fair, inclusive, and expedient process for union recognition through a Labor Peace agreement. The petition was signed by a majority of eligible workers. Management said they are not willing to work with us on a Labor Peace agreement. We will keep moving forward and will provide more updates soon. Here is what we presented to management:

Dear Mary,

We appreciate your willingness to engage in conversation as we define the contours of our organizing process. We are writing to share our commitment to developing a Labor Peace agreement. We create this agreement collaboratively to suit our specific situation and it would allow us to proceed in a manner more in alignment with the values we all embrace at the Walker. Conversely, we believe that a National Labor Relations Board election would not be inclusive or expedient, and would instead impose a generic, external process that is likely to be lengthy, invasive, and distracting as well as a poor fit for our institution.

We agree that dialogue is essential to developing the Walker we want, and a Labor Peace process is exactly that. We also want to rethink traditional structures—pursuing this type of agreement allows us to forge our own path forward together.

It is our goal to work with you to create and sustain an equitable workplace where all staff feel empowered and have the chance to participate in the decisions that affect our work and our lives. We invite you to join us in creating a process together, one that is fair, inclusive, expedient, and takes into account the true uniqueness of the Walker community.