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Councilmember Sawant: Newly-Formed Art Workers Union at Frye Art Museum Begin Bargaining Today, Calls for Community Support

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters Rights committee, issued the following statement as the newly-formed Art Workers Union engaged in its first bargaining session, on July 29, with Frye management for a union contract:

“As a member of the local teachers union, City Councilmember and elected representative of Seattle’s working people, and member of Socialist Alternative, I congratulate the Frye Art Museum security guards on their first bargaining session with management today.

“Last month, I was proud to stand with you all as you unanimously voted to form the Art Workers Union. Now, you are bargaining with management – the next step in the fight to win dignity, good pay, respect at work, and the right to housing affordability in Seattle.

“There is no excuse for Frye management to not bargain a fair contract with the workers. The Frye workers are among those who have helped make Seattle, and District 3, a vibrant, dynamic community. They’ve shared their creativity and artistry as glassblowers, printmakers, painters, and pen-and-ink artists. They are called security guards by Frye, but in fact they do more than guard the artwork. They guide museum visitors, and lend their own artistic expertise in teaching people about the Frye’s exhibits.

“And yet these workers face economic eviction from Seattle, because of the combination of an employer nickel-and-diming them on wages, and greedy corporate landlords who are jacking up rents all over our city. These workers are on the edge of being homeless.

“It’s time for the Frye Art Museum to provide the workers a living wage, excellent benefits, good working conditions, and sufficient work hours. I call on all working people in District 3 and citywide to join me in supporting the Frye Art Museum workers, and indeed all workers fighting for their rights in the workplace, and for affordable housing in the community.”

New union member Kelsey Barnes said, “The Art Workers Union (AWU) greatly appreciated the support Councilmember Sawant provided when we were forming our union, and now as we begin bargaining our Union contract.  The AWU demands an extension of healthcare to all employees, increased salaries beyond minimum wage, and regular emergency preparedness trainings. At present, the security services team is not making a livable wage and most of its officers are not medically insured. The officers are proud to monitor the safety of the museum’s exhibitions and patrons, but their well-being needs to be valued as well. The AWU demands these improvements because we cannot afford not to.”

Sawant continued:  “I salute Kelsey and all of the Frye workers for their bravery in standing up.  And I encourage all workers, no matter where you work, to follow in the footsteps of these workers, and form unions so you can fight for better living standards and working conditions. Let’s build a powerful labor movement to fight for workers rights in the workplace and affordable housing throughout our city, including universal rent control, free of corporate loopholes!”

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