We are the workers of Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA), a NYC-based nonprofit with a mission to introduce children and families to the transformative power of the arts. Educators and artists, CMA workers have vibrant personal practices that we share through teaching, collaborating, and organizing within the greater NYC arts community. We love what we do, and, moreover, we love the community with whom we do it.
Beginning in November 2019, we came together to organize a union in order to collectively bargain for better working conditions at CMA—part of a wave of unionization involving museum workers across the country, all seeking to make working in the arts a viable career option. We are proud to share we successfully achieved union recognition, which coincided with the beginning of the pandemic.
Like so many institutions around the world, CMA was shuttered indefinitely at the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Mere days after becoming a union, 50 part-time Teaching Artists were laid off and 11 full-time staff furloughed. Fortunately, through our organizing efforts, we won legally enforceable recall rights for part-time workers and healthcare for furloughed full-time workers. However, these circumstances have left almost all of us in a deeply precarious financial position.
Even before this time, many CMA workers were being paid low hourly wages without health insurance or other benefits, making us particularly financially vulnerable in these trying times. The loss of our community and relationships with children and families who visit the Museum has been devastating enough. As we get closer to the end of the additional $600 of pandemic assistance to unemployment at the end of July, we feel it is vital that we are able to support our members at this time. Unexpected medical expenses, difficulty paying rent, inability to access unemployment benefits, and, for some of us, inability to qualify for these benefits due to visa status, has caused mounting emotional and financial burden. The COVID-19 crisis has unfairly impacted BIPOC communities the hardest, and we will prioritize those members in obtaining funds we raise.
Because the Museum is currently unable to support its employees, our burgeoning CMA Union (a subsidiary of the United Auto Workers) is organizing a Mutual Aid Fund for those who need fiduciary aid in these trying times. When CMA does reopen, we hope this Fund will assist in making that a smoother and more transparent transition.
Please see below for a list of questions answered. We know we are stronger together, and in the way we know how, we're sharing our creative work with you as a thank you for your generosity! We greatly appreciate your support towards our cause, and would like to offer incentives in return for your donations in the form of artwork and classes created by our talented Teaching Artists. Please refer to the graphic below for more details.
Where Will The Funds Go?
All funds donated will be used to pay living expenses for CMA employees: bills, food, rent, prescriptions, and any other essential needs.
Who Obtains Funding?
An online survey will determine who of us is most in need. Money will be allotted first to those in emergency situations who cannot maintain housing or food. Remaining funds will be made available on a regulatory basis that considers both employees’ needs and the rate of fundraising. The COVID-19 crisis has hit Black and brown communities the hardest, and we will prioritize those members in obtaining funds we raise.
How is Money Distributed?
The funds will be pooled into a single bank account established for this purpose only. Money will then be paid directly to employees from this fund through Venmo, PayPal, or another money-sharing app.
Who Are We?
This fund is organized by a Mutual Aid Fund subcommittee of the CMA Union-Local 2110 UAW. It is managed directly by Bridget Johnson and Johanne Swanson, former employees of CMA; the bank account and fund distribution is managed by Johanne Swanson.