AKG Workers United

Questions & Answers

Workers United, Upstate New York and Vermont, is a union which is generally recognized as one of the most successful organizing unions today given our efforts with the highly publicized Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s campaigns. Our regional union is based in Rochester and we represent workers from many different industries, including non-profit, education, and museums. For example, we represent workers at the Science Center in Ithaca, NY. We are committed to organizing all workers in order to raise conditions across an industry and empower all workers to achieve workplace democracy. Workers United is a division of SEIU, a union that represents over 2 million members across the nation. 

There are many different reasons why AKG workers want to organize a union. For example, some people are organizing because they want to hold management accountable and have a real voice at AKG. With a union, your ideas and concerns will be addressed at the bargaining table and there will be a clear, democratic process for how to make the museum a better workplace. For others, they are organizing because they want to fight for better healthcare, wages, and benefits. Some are organizing because they want to bargain for policy changes regarding things like breaks and accessibility. Overall, AKG workers are organizing to make AKG a better museum for guests and a better workplace for workers. 

AKG workers will run and build your own own union. Some anti-union employers call the union an “outside third party” to try to mislead workers and make the union seem like something workers will have no control over. This is simply false. The union is the workers themselves.  It is not an “outside third party.” 

Union dues for full time workers are $10.84 per week.  If you work less than 25 hours, dues are $5.47 per week, and if you work one day a week, they are only $2. There are no dues until AFTER you negotiate and vote on a union contract. Dues are used for helping other workers organize, legal support, staff support, education, communications, lost time pay for stewards and negotiating committee members, etc. 

Ultimately, that’s up to us the workers at each workplace to decide. 

Typically union contracts speak to issues such as:

  • Staffing levels
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Protection from unfair discipline and firings
  • Creation of joint labor/management committees
  • Fair promotion procedures
  • Health Insurance
  • Retirement and/or 401k
  • Health and Safety on the job
  • Right to have union representatives on the job to help when needed
  • Union grievance and arbitration procedure
  • Leave of absence rights


It is important to note that there are no promises as to what will be in your union contract. This depends on what you are able to negotiate and what is most important to you. 

Workers United believes in a workplace where all workers have a democratic voice. We are not against our employers. In fact, we want to partner with our employers to make the business more successful. Such partnerships must be formed out of true equality and mutual respect. .   By building unions, our union is advancing social and economic justice in our communities. 

Our union’s values are inclusiveness, compassion, joy, creativity, respect, and solidarity.

A union contract, also known as a collective bargaining agreement, is a document negotiated between workers and management. The contract sets forth the pay, benefits, policies, rights on the job and working conditions at the company or non-profit organization. Before the contract goes into effect it must be voted on (ratified) by workers.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate in any way against workers for organizing a union. It is unlawful for the company to threaten to fire people, or to close the business, or to take away benefits. If a company does break the law, then the union can file a charge with the Labor Board and the government may prosecute the company for the violation.

Questions About Voluntary Recognition

As workers, you have the legal right to organize a union at the AKG. The first step of organizing a union is to create an organizing committee – this is a group of workers who lead the organizing effort at work. This is a voluntary committee. At the AKG, there are now dozens of workers who have joined the organizing committee and many more people continue to join (you can join at any time – the more the merrier!)


The next step is to sign “union authorization cards.” Signing these cards means that you want to have a union at the AKG. Management will not see who does and does not sign a card. You should only sign a card if you want a union at the AKG. Everyone has the right to decide whether or not they want to sign a union card or not.


Once a majority of workers at the AKG sign union cards, leadership can either voluntarily recognize our union, or they can force workers to file for a union election. We are asking the AKG leadership to voluntarily recognize

If leadership voluntarily recognized our union, they would agree to not engage in union-busting and accept that a majority of workers want to have a union at the AKG.

We would then conduct what’s called a “card check,” which is when an neutral party, such as an arbitrator, counts the number of union authorization cards and confirms that there are a majority of workers who want a union. Once this happens, we would form a bargaining committee with elected representatives from every department, to draft proposals on how to improve our jobs and negotiate with management.

We are asking for voluntary recognition because we believe the Preservation & Safety officers deserve to be in the same union as the rest of the museum. Under the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that protects the right to organize a union, security guards are excluded from being in the same union as other workers, unless the employer agrees to voluntarily recognize a mixed unit.

This means that the only way to have a union that is inclusive of all departments at the museum is if the AKG voluntarily recognizes our union. We believe that this is the most fair and appropriate way to organize.

No, voluntary recognition is not undemocratic. Every worker has the right to sign or not sign a union card. If the AKG does not voluntarily recognize the union and instead insists on an election, that signals that they want to fight the union effort and try to convince workers not to organize. Waiting for an election would allow the AKG to bring in union-busting lawyers in and try to scare or intimidate workers from exercising their rights.


We believe that a workers’ union is in line with the AKG’s mission and values and union-busting is not.

It is up to AKG leadership to decide whether they want to fight the union or build a collaborative relationship with their workers. Many museums, such as the Whitney Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of contemporary Art, and have chosen to do the right thing and voluntarily recognize the union – the AKG should do the same.

Leaflets you may have seen...

Letter to Leadership