Illinois Museum of Nature Employees Unite with AFSCME

By AFSCME Council 31 Tuesday, March 28, 2023

CHICAGO – Employees of the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park and its offsite collection center in Ravenswood form their union, Chicago Academy of Sciences Workers United (CASWU), with AFSCME Council 31 .

They filed union representation petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago on Tuesday. The filing will trigger a union election in the coming weeks in which employees can vote to officially certify their union.

The NLRB filing comes just a week after the CASWU/AFSCME organizing committee launched the public phase of its organizing campaign – an indication of overwhelmingly strong support for the union among museum workers.

“We are forming our union because we want to work with our colleagues and our leaders to ensure that our institution always becomes a fair, inclusive and safe workplace. This cannot happen unless we have a say in the decisions that affect us,” said CASWU/AFSCME organizing committee member Anabel Hirano, who is a volunteer and intern coordinator at the Museum of Nature.

“I wish the employees of Chicago’s oldest museum could afford to own a home in the city we love and serve. We should feel safe and supported by our employer,” said Jessy Rose Williams, a fabricator/show technician who is also a member of the organizing committee. “In our union, we can make things better for ourselves and for the public.”

Once certified, CASWU/AFSCME will represent nearly 50 employees who work in the departments of Visitor Experience and Engagement, Education, Biology, or Museum Collections.

AFSCME is at the forefront of a wave of organizing in the cultural sector, both locally and across the country.

Museum of Nature employees join the Art Institute of Chicago, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Newberry Library and Field Museum who recently formed unions as part of AFSCME’s Cultural Workers United campaign .

“Cultural work is work, and all work should have dignity,” said Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch, who is also vice-president of AFSCME. “Our union is happy to help the employees of the Nature Museum and all cultural workers to take their place at the table that is theirs.

AFSCME is the largest union of cultural workers nationwide, comprising over 10,000 museum workers in over 90 cultural institutions in the public and private sectors, and over 25,000 library workers in 275 public libraries and private.

The Chicago Academy of Sciences was founded in 1857 and opened the city’s first public museum in 1869. Known for its butterfly paradise, hands-on science education, and extensive collection of natural history specimens, the current Notebaert nature museum opened in 1999.


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