Almost 300 workers at the Minnesota Historical Society are now officially unionized.
"Minnesota Historical Society workers have voted overwhelmingly to join our union to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace!" Julie Bleyhl, AFSCME Council 5's executive director, said Wednesday via press release. "This successful organizing victory comes on the wave of many workers unionizing to demand stronger, safer, and more resilient workplaces all across our state."
Headquartered in St. Paul's Minnesota History Center, the Minnesota Historical Society has done exactly what you'd expect it to do since 1849: preserve state history and educate Minnesotans about it. AFSCME Council 5 represents over 43,000 public employees in Minnesota, including workers in state and local government, universities, and school districts.
Want to know more about the Minnesota Historical Society union push, like what grievances motivated workers and perhaps even what workers have to say? AFSCME Council 5 has not responded to multiple Racket interview requests. A MNHS spokesperson sent us the following statement:
"The leadership team respects the right and choice of our colleagues to elect representation. We look forward to engaging in the bargaining process with respect and in good faith to reach a collective bargaining agreement. We remain committed to functioning as a community with the shared purpose of fostering a more inclusive, empathetic, and informed society."
Considering context clues, we can conclude that MNHS did not voluntarily recognize the union when it went public back in September. That would have eliminated the need for a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board and, as you can see from the MNHS Workers Union Instagram, that's the route workers took.
Gutted by decades of globalization, the historically unionized U.S. manufacturing sector offers few new leads for organizers. So labor is getting creative. You might not have expected museum workers to unionize, but it's happening at Minnesota Historical Society and at museums around the country. Same for the Twin Cities craft-beverage sector and three local Half Price Books locations.
Click here to read our recent feature on how Striketober energized Minnesota workers.