The Philadelphia Museum of art will vote on the tentative agreement this Sunday. (photo Tim Tiebout; courtesy PMA Union)

Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) workers reached a tentative agreement with museum leadership today, October 14, ending a 19-day strike that is one of the longest in the city’s recent history. Management compromised on all five of the demands that prompted the strike, and union members will vote to ratify the agreement on Sunday.

Should the union approve the agreement, workers will be paid a $16.75 minimum wage (up from $15); the museum will issue a 14% across-the-board raise over the course of the three-year union contract, set retroactively to July 1; and full-time employees will receive a $500 longevity bonus for every five years they work at the institution (part-time workers will receive a $250 bonus for the same period).

PMA employees will also receive four weeks of paid family leave, and the high-deductible healthcare plan that insures the vast majority of employees will decrease in price (the museum will up its contribution from 90% to 95%).

“I think we achieved something that is going to have a meaningful impact on all of the workers who are in the unit,” PMA Union President Adam Rizzo told Hyperallergic. “From talking to people today and sharing the news with folks, everyone was so excited and thrilled about what we were able to achieve.”

In a museum press release, CEO Sasha Suda said, “We believe that this agreement and our investment in people across the organization is the right thing to do, works for everyone and establishes a way forward for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”

“We look forward to the ratification of the agreement and the enhancements it will deliver for all of our employees, and we are thrilled to move forward as a unified institution in continuing to serve our extraordinary community,” added PMA Board Chair Leslie Ann Miller.

Photography Curator Amanda Bok, who sits on the union’s negotiating committee, told Hyperallergic that she raced to the picket lines as soon as the two parties had reached their agreement.

“People are really excited, there’s a lot of joy and relief and excitement,” said Bok. She added that as workers face the rising cost of living without raises (and after pay cuts during the pandemic), the agreement comes as a relief.

The union had planned to picket tomorrow night’s VIP celebration for the museum’s Matisse in the 1930’s exhibition, which opens next week. With the museum’s own installation team on strike, PMA called in outside contractors to hang the show, eliciting an outpouring of backlash online that led the institution to disable social media comments in a controversial move. Rizzo said that after coming to an agreement, the union canceled the protest.

“We’re just really proud of each other for holding the line,” said Bok. “We started strong, and we finished strong.”

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.