TAM Board: On March 23, Grant Voluntary Recognition or Perpetuate Systemic Inequity at TAM

Today, we submitted a proposal for an independent election to the TAM Board of Trustees. Since the Board is not willing to grant us voluntary recognition via card check, an independent election is our only other option to secure voluntary recognition and keep our coworkers together in one union. 

We call on the Board to respect our right to organize and ACCEPT OUR PROPOSAL at their March 23 Board meeting. 

Continuing to deny us recognition only serves to perpetuate systemic inequity at TAM – something the Board has professed commitment to ending. 

In their statement denying us voluntary recognition in November 2022, the TAM Board of Trustees professed commitment to “celebrating the diversity of [TAM] personnel, combatting racism, LGBTQIA prejudice, antisemitism and classism and fostering compassionate and respectful treatment of our employees.”

We, the employees of the Tacoma Art Museum, would love to see the Board’s professed values be put into practice. They are the same values motivating us to fight for our union and end years of inequity at TAM. 

The Board’s continued refusal to grant voluntary recognition, and their attempt to force us into a lengthy and costly union election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, stands in direct contrast to their stated values and to the mission of the Tacoma Art Museum.

Voluntary recognition is the only way for all eligible workers at TAM to be in one union together. Without voluntary recognition, we’re facing a National Labor Relations Board election—a process that would enable the Board to split apart our union.

"Professional" and "Non-professional": Dividing workers by race, class, and gender

After the January Board of Trustees meeting, Board President Jeff Williams told union organizers and community members that Development employees should not be in the same union with Visitor Services employees because we don't share working conditions in common. This is a transparent argument to weaken our organizing fight— a divide and conquer strategy that’s been used against unions throughout history. 

Splitting workers into these categories maintains systemic racism, classism, sexism, and transphobia in the workplace. Jobs categorized as “professional” are disproportionately held by white, cisgender, heterosexual, and male workers and are paid at higher rates than jobs categorized as “non-professional,” which overrepresent Black and brown, female and transgender/non-binary workers. 

So much for “celebrating the diversity of [TAM] personnel, combatting racism, LGBTQIA prejudice, antisemitism and classism…”!

Excluding guards: Divide and conquer

National Labor Relations Board union elections are subject to an outdated requirement that prohibits security and non-security workers from being in the same union together. This is contrary to TAM’s values of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion - values that the Trustees profess to share, too. 

The outdated guard exclusion was not part of the original National Labor Relations Act but was added along with a slew of other anti-worker measures in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 even though the U.S. Supreme Court had addressed concerns around unions including security and non-security as meritless and said that excluding guards made "the collective bargaining rights of guards distinctly second-class." 

That was true then and is true today. Forcing workers to go to NLRB elections is yet another divide and conquer strategy that takes advantage of this meritless and outdated requirement. 

The Trustees Have a Choice to Make

The TAM Board of Trustees have a choice to make. 

They can choose to continue denying us voluntary recognition. In doing so, they are choosing to take advantage of laws that historically and to this day benefit white and male workers at the expense of Black and brown, female and transgender/non-binary workers.

As the board members of a leading cultural institution with the mission to serve our communities “by sharing art that inspires broader perspectives and cultivates a compassionate future”, denying voluntary recognition is contrary to what this institution stands for and undermines their stated desire to “combat” systemic oppressions. 

They can choose to grant us voluntary recognition. In doing so, they can make good on their goal to celebrate staff diversity, stand against systemic oppression, and treat workers with compassion and respect. 

We bring our respect and passion for this work to our jobs every day. We ask that the Board return that respect by voluntarily recognizing our legal right to join together in a union.  

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