These Pilgrims Would be Thankful for a Contract

By Evan Henerson

Just in time for Thanksgiving…a rally at the Rock over working conditions!

Workers from the living history museum at Plimoth Plantation have spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving picketing for better working conditions. They circulated a petition, collected 1,000 signatures and held a rally at Plymouth Rock.

According to multiple reports, 70 unionized workers represented by the Society of Allied Museum Professionals (SAMP) have been battling with museum management over a fair contract since December of 2016 when the union formed. These artisans, maintenance workers and historical interpreters claim the museum has “dangerously low staffing levels,” job insecurity, low wages and potentially unsafe working conditions. They also accuse the museum administrators of employing anti-union tactics.

The plantation workers will deliver their petition to museum administrators on Thanksgiving Day, a day on which the museum is traditionally open. No strike action is planned.

“We believe that they are stalling. Their proposals they know are repugnant and unacceptable,” union secretary and living history educator Kristi Schkade told the Associated Press.

Officials for the museum say they are negotiating in good faith.

The protests have received solidarity from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union.

From an excellent feature story on Plimoth and living history museums written by Michael Hare for The Outline:

“I spoke on the phone with a former pilgrim named Kim Crowley, who worked at the museum for two years, and left before the start of this season. She said that, during a heat wave in the summer of 2016, the air conditioning stopped working in the Village break room, and that management didn’t fix it. She said the pipes below the Village road needed to be fixed, and weren’t repaired sufficiently, and as a result sometimes the break room was without water. She said pilgrims were hired at minimum wage (currently $11/hour in Massachusetts), and often worked at will and without clear job descriptions.

Crowley also said that, at times, there were fewer than ten staff working in the Village, which was about half of what would have been standard a decade prior. Crowley said that pilgrims are charged with intense, potentially dangerous tasks, and are often swarmed with visitors, and that there is pressure from management to remain at or near an assigned area, and that sometimes it was difficult to step away to use the bathroom. “We work in borderline dangerous conditions,” an interpreter named Kate Moore told the The Boston Globe in August. “One of our retirees has stumbled several times, brought it to the attention of management and was quite vocal about it, and lo and behold, he didn’t get asked back this season.”

Read more here.

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