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Friday, July 24, 2020

Detroit Institute of Arts workers demand pay increase to $15 per hour

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2020 at 11:13 AM

click to enlarge The Detroit Institute of Arts. - DARREN HOOD, DETROIT STOCK CITY
  • Darren Hood, Detroit Stock City
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts.

A group of service workers at the Detroit Institute of Arts is demanding the museum increase their pay to $15 per hour.

The demand was shared in a letter to DIA Staff Action, a group of museum employees who are calling for director Salvador Salort-Pons to be "removed from his role" by Aug. 31, citing recent allegations of racial insensitivity and nepotism in a matter involving the loaning of two paintings to the museum. DIA Staff action shared the letter on their Instagram account on Thursday.



"Our concern is a certain lack of respect by the institution for workers on the 'lower levels,' particularly those who engage and serve (with care for the museum and with the utmost decency) the public," the letter says. "This includes the visitor services department, environmental services, museum shop workers, guest sales, public programming, security staff, maintenance... the list could go on."

The letter writers cited the renewed millage that voters approved in March, which collects property taxes from the tri-county area to support the museum. They also say they deserve more money for working during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Considering the amount of funding and the recently passed millage, it is a shock to us that workers were still being paid as little as $10/hr," they write. "There is no mention of hazard pay for workers that have to go out in the public during the pandemic and work in the museum. In fact, there is only mention of wage stagnation for FY2020-21."

They said they were inspired by DIA Staff Action and MOCAD Resistance, a similar group that also formed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. MOCAD Resistance demands the ouster of executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder, who they allege has created a toxic workplace.

In response, the DIA issued a statement saying that it is listening to their concerns.

"The museum can, must and will continue to make progress in supporting our team and our community, in order to best represent and serve Detroit and our region," the statement said, according to The Detroit News. "The DIA remains committed to protecting our valued staff."

The museum also noted, "No team members have been laid off or furloughed since the start of the pandemic."

You can read the full service staff letter below:

We are writing DIA Staff Action under the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Inspired by DIA Staff Action and MOCAD Resistance, we are writing to you to inform you of concerns that we believe strongly in.

Solidarity forever.

Our concern is a certain lack of respect by the institution for workers on the “lower levels”, particularly those who engage and serve (with care for the museum and with the utmost decency) the public. This includes the visitor services department, environmental services, museum shop workers, guest sales, public programming, security staff, maintenance... the list could go on.

The lack of respect we are speaking of that unites all of us is how little we are paid. Considering the amount of funding and the recently passed millage, it is a shock to us that workers were still being paid as little as $10/hr. There is no mention of hazard pay for workers that have to go out in the public during the pandemic and work in the museum. In fact, there is only mention of wage stagnation for FY2020-21.

We are not suggesting that the museum is an unsafe environment and that they aren’t taking precautions, however we’re merely stating that the concept of a no-wage increase for working in the public during this pandemic does not seem like the institution values its workers as much as they publicly lead on.

We believe that a lot of workers share the same concerns. As colleagues we have shared stories of economic hardship, enormous student and credit card debt, lack of proper healthcare, stress of working multiple jobs, trying to raise children or care for family members, and poor mental health. An acknowledgement and respect for the service of all workers at the DIA and the time they dedicate deserves to be proven in a wage increase.

It is only fair the institution pays us a minimum of $15/hour at all levels of the workers, even part-time. It is simply not a lot to ask.
It is only fair that the institution includes us all more often than they do. In fact, we’re sure we could contribute to the success of the DIA in more ways than we’re currently allotted to do.

We have a tremendous pool of talent and intelligence just waiting for an opportunity to showcase. We have skills and know the museum inside and out. A lot of us have studied art and history and literature, and even if not, are capable of learning skills and knowledge in order to be given more responsibility.

We should all have an opportunity to be better trained in areas we lack, and given freedom to use our talents. There should be more inter-departmental collaboration and a way for workers to be better promoted internally. An environment of comradeship and passion for the institution will be fostered if we are all paid a decent wage and given respect.

In solidarity,
Current and former service workers

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