Frequently Asked Questions

Why should we join a union?

We join for our communities, our families, and our professions. With no clear federal standards or a guaranteed voice on the job, regulations and quality standards vary – and employers often make decisions arbitrarily. By standing together as a union, we can bring improvements to cultural institutions, the communities they enhance, and our professions.

Union workers have on average 30% higher wages and benefits than their nonunion counterparts, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. Your union can also protect you from unjust discipline or firing by creating a grievance procedure. Almost any problem in the workplace can be resolved more effectively and fairly when you have representation.

Why are cultural professionals choosing Cultural Workers United-AFSCME?

With AFSCME, we keep the power to make our own decisions about elected leadership, resources, and finances. At the same time, we have national oversight to ensure that everything runs smoothly, leadership elections are democratic, and resources are used to improve our professions. We have the assistance necessary to train members and leaders to be effective advocates in the workplace.

AFSCME represents more cultural workers around the country than any other union, representing more museum workers in the public and private sector and more than 25,000 library workers in public and private libraries.

What is AFSCME?

AFSCME is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. It was started in 1932 in Wisconsin to represent state employees during the Depression. Since that time, AFSCME has grown in size and diversity. AFSCME is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Who does AFSCME represent?

AFSCME represents a wide range of dedicated public service employees across the country, including EMTs, paramedics, nurses, doctors, law enforcement officers, educators, engineers, and many others. AFSCME is also the biggest union representing organized workers in the cultural job sector – representing workers at art museums, history museums, public libraries, university libraries, science centers, zoos, botanical gardens, historical museums, and other cultural institutions. We represent cultural workers in a variety of positions such as security guards and attendants, HVAC technicians and maintenance engineers, librarians, librarian assistants, archivists, preparators, visitor service associates, museum instructors and educators, museum researchers, artists, audio/visual employees, curators, part-time workers, full-time workers, and numerous other job titles.

What kind of voice do we have in our union?

The union is a democracy. We vote to elect our stewards, bargaining team members, and other leaders. Democracy and transparency ensure the accountability of financial and representational matters of our union.

How can my coworkers and I join Cultural Workers United-AFSCME?

You can click here and contact us. You and your coworkers will need to sign union authorization cards allowing the government to hold a union election. Once enough cards are collected, they will verify the information. No other concerned parties are informed of any card signer’s identity, choice, or intent. All of your information is private. After the information is verified, the government will conduct an election for workers to decide whether or not they want to form a union.

Why do employers try to prevent workers from forming a union?

Employers fight back because they know when workers are united, they have the power to force employers to do the things they don’t want to do, like pay fair wages, improve staffing levels, and treat everyone equally. During the organizing process, it is very common for employers to hire union-busting consultants, hold mandatory meetings designed to threaten and scare employees, and engage in many other practices to divide us.

How does AFSCME advocate for political change?

Our industries are regulated by elected officials and public administrators. They determine how cultural institutions like libraries and museums operate in our communities, and make decisions that affect our jobs and the work we do. That’s why AFSCME is active in the political arena. Just as community organizations, not-for-profit cultural organizations, and others lobby politicians to support their business, we need to reach out to politicians to support our professions. We have a political action fund called AFSCME PEOPLE which helps us elect candidates who support cultural workers and hold those candidates accountable once they’re in office.

All donations to AFSCME PEOPLE are voluntary and private. If you have any questions about your rights regarding the fund, see Article IX, Section 14 of the AFSCME constitution.

If I join the union, will I have to go on strike?

Strikes are the strongest tool we have, but we have many other tools. Deciding to strike is a serious decision and is usually a last resort. We will only go on strike if we vote to go on strike; the decision is ours.

How does collective bargaining work?

We choose a committee of our coworkers who sit down with our employer and negotiate an agreement. This agreement is known as a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) or a union contract. The committee sits at the table with the employer as equals and they negotiate to address the issues that we have prioritized as a group. The majority of union members must approve the agreement before it can be accepted as our contract.