September 24, 2017
 
Plimoth Plantation Workers Form Union, Seek Contract

August 28, 2017 — A recently formed employee union at Plimoth Plantation, a Plymouth nonprofit museum that tells the story of the 17th century settlement of the Plymouth Colony, citing "deteriorating working conditions," staged a rally yesterday to support its claim that management is not bargaining in good faith.

Kate Moore, chair of the Society of Allied Museum Professionals (SAMP, UAW Local 2320), in a letter to the board of trustees of Plimoth Plantation, wrote, “We organized our union because of the drastic changes in attitude toward staff and because of deteriorating working conditions at Plimoth Plantation."

She said workers have found themselves working hours in isolation, doing more due to declining staffing levels, with many working at minimum wage.

"This is our notice to you that we believe the employer is not bargaining in good faith and does not want a contract – which we have a right to. We want just and good faith bargaining now,” Moore wrote.

Plimoth Plantation spokesperson Kate Sheehan, quoted in a report posted on wickeklocal.com., noted that “Employee and guest safety is of the utmost concern to the museum. As has always been the case, we address any legitimate concerns that are brought to the attention of museum management and those we become aware of ourselves. We strongly disagree with the...union’s specific assertions."

She added that museum management will continue to bargain a contract with the union in good faith, the report continued, adding that "we are leading our organization through a challenging time for history museums nationwide while making steady progress on our strategic goals. This includes the restoration of Mayflower II, which is on schedule to return in 2019 but means significant loss of revenue for the museum in the meantime.”

Currently, SAMP membership includes 50 of the organization's 177 employees. The National Labor Relations Board conducted a union vote last December, at which time there were 77 people in the bargaining unit.

Moore said the drop in members in the bargaining unit reflects "a very high rate of turnover because of low wages and job insecurity," adding, "To be fair, it is hard to find people who are suitable for these jobs who are willing to work for minimum wage, and when you factor in the seasonality of the job, it can be very difficult to fill positions."

SAMP rallied yesterday at Pilgrim Memorial State Park on the Plymouth waterfront in conjunction with UAW Region 9A’s Leadership Conference.

"Before contract negotiations began our bargaining committee surveyed staff about the issues that were most important to them, Moore said. "The majority put low wages at or near the bottom of their lists of priorities. At the top were dangerously low staffing levels and job security, followed by inadequate training and communication and numerous health and safety concerns."

Sheehan reportedly disputed safety concerns" "All buildings currently in the 17th century English Village have been inspected by a structural engineer and deemed safe for occupancy," wickedlocal.com quoted her.

Founded in 1947, Plimoth Plantation, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, reported $8.2 million in revenue and $7.6 million in expenses for the year ending Dec. 31, 2015, according to its most recently available federal tax filing.

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