Last year the cultural sector took a big hit as the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns of museums, libraries and cultural institutions. However, despite looming threats of layoffs and furloughs, museum workers all over the country fought hard to demand a seat at the table and successfully organized their unions.

Cultural Workers United-AFSCME was off to a strong start in 2020 after workers at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) won voluntary recognition and unionized with District Council 36 in December 2019. The victory at MOCA set the stage for what turned out to be a successful year of organizing at CWU, with over 500 workers from three museums and two library unionizing efforts joining our fast-growing network of organized cultural workers.

As we usher in a new year filled with renewed worker power and momentum in the cultural sector, here’s a look back at some of CWU’s other notable organizing victories in 2020:


  • In June 2020, AFSCME Council 93 won a campaign to represent library workers in the Hamilton Wenham Library in Massachusetts.
  • In July of 2020, CWU and Marciano Art Foundation workers successfully fought back against the Marciano brothers to win an unfair labor practice and lawsuit against the Marciano Art Foundation. 70 workers, who were illegally laid off after organizing with AFSCME, won 10 weeks of severance pay.
  • In August 2020, 89% of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union overwhelming voted in favor of unionizing with AFSCME District Council 47, becoming the first wall to wall museum union in the United States.
  • In the fall of 2020, after a year-long battle, Milwaukee Public Museum workers, Local 526 of AFSCME Council 32, reached an agreement that included significant gains such as salary increases, a higher company-wide pay floor, and the defeat of a discriminatory healthcare premium proposal among wins. Clermont County Library workers in Ohio also unionized with AFSCME Local 4, OAPSE.
  • In November 2020, museum workers of the Walker Worker Union at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis won voluntarily recognition to unionize with AFSCME Council 5.
  • In December 2020, museum workers at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City voted overwhelming in favor to unionize with 80% voting to unionize with AFSCME District Council 37. Cultural Workers United launched a national petition to protect museum employees from furloughs and layoffs across the sector. Click here to add your name to the petition and support museum workers through 2021 and beyond!