NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (NEWS10) — Unionized employees of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as MASS MoCA, voted almost unanimously to strike for the day on Friday, Aug. 19. The move comes as the union negotiates its first contract with museum management, according to a release.

96% voted in favor of the work stoppage, and employees will be picketing at the museum during that day, the statement said. “We have asked our members to strike because MASS MoCA has not bargained in good faith on a fair contract for the employees who make it so successful,” said Maro Elliott, Manager of Institutional Giving and a member of the Union’s Negotiating Committee. “We want an agreement with MASS MoCA that will create a more accessible, equitable, and just workplace.”

According to the release, the average wage in the bargaining unit is $17.20 per hour, and two-thirds of the unit make under $15.50 an hour. The Economic Policy Institute’s family budget calculator determined for modest living in Berkshire County, a single individual with no children needs to earn $40,000 a year. The Union is seeking a minimum rate of $18 per hour for the first year of the contract and increases in 2023 and 2024 that would bring staff closer to $20 an hour by the end of the contract. The Museum is proposing a $16 per hour minimum and no guaranteed increase in 2023 and 2024, workers said.

“Many of us live locally in North Adams. By raising hourly rates to something more livable, MASS MoCA would not only be supporting its employees, but helping lift the community,” said Isabel Twanmo, a Box Office Representative who has worked at MASS MoCA since 2018 and is on the Union’s Negotiating Committee.

A part of the United Auto Workers Local 2110, the union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the museum with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the museum of bargaining in bad faith, the release said. The museum settled an initial charge filed by the union because of its refusal to provide a regularly scheduled raise to unionized employees after the union was voted in.

“Throughout months of bargaining, MASS MoCA’s representatives have been antagonistic toward our union, telling us the arts and artists come first. We all love MASS MoCA but we also have to live,” said Elliott.