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MFA union votes to hold one-day strike next week

The Museum of Fine ArtsLane Turner/Globe Staff/file

The union representing about 200 workers at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts voted Wednesday to hold a one-day strike next week, with union officials saying management refuses to budge over wages and other issues after more than seven months of contract negotiations.

More than 96 percent of members of the MFA Union, which represents public-facing staff, library workers, educators, curators, conservators, and administrative and professional workers, voted to picket outside the museum on Huntington Avenue on Wednesday, according to union officials.

Eve Mayberger, a member of the union’s bargaining team, said workers are concerned about pay, safety, workplace diversity, requiring union membership, and job growth.

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“Management has not really engaged with most of these issues and are coming back with very mild adjustments,” said Mayberger, an assistant objects conservator who has been at the museum for five years. “It’s … interesting to think about how many hours we have spent talking about it and how far apart we still are.”

In a statement Friday, the museum said it has supported workers’ right to organize and has “met in good faith at the bargaining table, making positive progress and engaging in productive dialogue with the union.”

“Despite serious financial challenges to the arts and nonprofit sector stemming from the pandemic and a slow return to normalcy, our goal has always been to recognize and support our employees, including a commitment to investment in compensation,” the MFA said. “We have made this clear in our discussions with the union.”

The museum said the union’s bargaining committee has not responded to a wage proposal for more than seven weeks, but museum leaders “remain committed to staying at the bargaining table to create an equitable and sustainable outcome.”

“We are confident that by continuing to communicate and collaborate, we can achieve a fair solution that supports our staff while also ensuring the Museum’s future financial sustainability,” the MFA said.

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The museum said it will remain open during the one-day strike.

MFA employees voted overwhelmingly to unionize in November 2020 by a vote of 133 to 14, after an effort begun in summer 2019 to join the roughly 5,000-member United Auto Workers Local 2110.

The New York-based union also represents workers at several other cultural institutions there, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Maida Rosenstein, president of UAW 2110, said the museum’s proposed three-year contract would not guarantee raises for workers until its final year.

“Compensation is really low to begin with, lower than other similar institutions,” she said. “The whole industry standard, really, is too low to begin with, particularly when you look at the salaries of a lot of museum executives, including those at the MFA.”

Rosenstein said museum officials have not been in contact with the union since it announced the planned strike.

Mayberger said museum workers have “general concerns about, How do we live in Boston? You read these reports coming out daily of 6 percent inflation rates, and we’ve already had a salary freeze for the past few years. It’s every day, the practicality becomes more challenging for our members.”

Mayberger remains hopeful that workers and management can find common ground.

“We are eager to work with the museum to come to a point of consensus with these negotiations, but we do feel like they need to listen to the workers who are in the building every day, and those people who are still working remotely, and try to come to … a fair and equitable contract,” she said.

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.