Security guards at the Seattle Art Museum voted Tuesday to form an independent union in a 38-4 majority vote.
During a Zoom call, a National Labor Relations Board Area 19 officer publicly counted each of the ballots submitted by security guards, known as Visitor Services Officers (VSOs). There were approximately 57 eligible voters. A ballot has been disputed, but its result will not affect the vote.
“It’s a huge relief,” said labor organizer Josh Davis. “The biggest challenge with these campaigns is sitting with the unknown of what’s going to happen next at work, and the kind of chaotic things that have happened since we started the campaign. So it’s really empowering. and exciting to see everyone still with us.
The union, which will be called SAM VSO Union, is the result of an effort that has been ongoing for almost a year and is part of a nationwide movement of museum workers seeking to unionize, including security guards. from the Frye Art Museum in Seattle which syndicated in 2019.
The union and the museum can file objections to the election until June 7, which the union does not intend to do. If no objections are raised within that time, the NLRB Regional Director will issue a certificate of election results and the union will be formalized. If an objection is made, there could be hearings or briefings, which take time and money, according to Kelly Skahan, an associate attorney representing the union.
A SAM spokesperson did not comment directly on whether the museum would file an objection to the election.
“We will follow the NLRB process and wait for the NLRB to certify the election results but, as we have maintained throughout this process, we respect the decision of a majority of voters,” SAM said in a statement. a statement.
The vote is the product of security workers’ second attempt to unionize since January.
The first attempt, in which the security guards wanted to join and be represented by Local 116 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, failed. A legal requirement of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits the NLRB from certifying a union as representing security workers if it also represents non-security workers, as IUPAT does.
Security officers also lobbied for SAM to voluntarily recognize their union, which would negate the need for an NLRB vote, but SAM did not, citing the legal requirement.
In this second effort, security workers voted to form an independent union and represent themselves, rather than joining an existing union.
After the vote was certified, the union and the museum would begin to negotiate a contract. Union goals include reinstating a pension equivalency plan, a mutually agreed-upon discipline escalation process, a seniority pay system, wage increases and scheduled increases that take into account the cost of life in Seattle.
“It doesn’t feel real, in a way, because we’ve been working on this for so long,” said labor organizer Ryan Durr. “It’s also the start of a long road ahead of us with the next things we need to do.”