Unionized employees of the Art Institute of Chicago museum (AIC) and its affiliated school, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), have secured their first contract, which guarantees wage increases “across the board” over a four-year period. Notably, employees who currently make the lowest wages receiving the highest raise at 16.25 percent.
The Art Institute of Chicago Workers United (AICWU/AFSCME)is comprised of more than 500 workers from the two institutions. According to their website, the contract also “begins to address critical workplace culture issues that have plagued workers for years.”
Among the additional rights gained by the contract are pay for bilingual work, yearly merit bonuses, and ratification bonuses. Job opening will also be made available to current employees before being made public, and that in-house qualified applicants be guaranteed an interview.
At the one-year mark of contract negotiations, the bargaining committee began collecting money for a strike fund, a move they hoped would helps bring the end negotiations to an end. Days after the strike began, a contract proposal was brought to the bargaining committee. According to the announcement, the proposal was “overwhelmingly” ratified by the union members.
According to Kyla Thomas, a member of the bargaining committee and a manager of distribution operations at AIC’s off-site warehouse, said in a statement that her warehouse coworkers “felt disrespected and mistreated by certain managers, and saw discipline meted out in unfair or arbitrary ways. In the past, it’s led to people either suffering in silence or simply leaving for other job opportunities.”
“Now we have a way to say, ‘Hey, you can’t do this to me,’” Thomas added. “There will be a union rep. by your side in all disciplinary meetings. That’s going to be a huge culture shift.”
Union representatives did not immediately answer a request for comment.