NYCMER (New York City Museum Educator's Roundtable) Conference yesterday. Even though I enjoyed myself and learned a lot, discussions about museum pay and the relationship between museums and their workers, interns, and freelancers kept coming up that really bugged me.
It is shameful how many museums continue to underpay their employees, rationalize free internships, and skirt labor laws with their weaselly compensation practices.
So, based on my 2017 NYCMER Conference experience, I offer these six questions below -- for museum managers and administrators, as well as employees (or potential employees) to make sure YOUR museum sets a positive example for the field:
• Are your internships paid or unpaid? (Every museum internship should be paid. Period. You can rationalize it any way you want, but if you are offering unpaid internships for the "experience" you are ripping people off, AND contributing to the lack of diversity in the museum field.)
• Do all your job listings list salary ranges? (If not, what are you ashamed of?)
• Is there pay parity between departments? (Do you really want to make the argument that development staff should be paid much more than exhibits or education staff?)
• Can your full-time staff actually support themselves on the salary you pay them? (Or do they need second jobs?)
• Do you delay (or "slow pay") contractors or freelancers? (Your institution expects work to be done in a timely way, so why shouldn't contractors have the same expectation about their pay?)
• Are you choosing employees because of their spouse's benefits, or deliberately holding down scheduled hours to avoid paying benefits? (Not only are you skirting unfair labor practices if you are doing this, but you are a weasel if you are doing this!)
The museum industry prides itself in supporting high intellectual and social goals, so shouldn't it support basic rights around compensation for its workers as well? Which of the areas in the questions above can YOUR museum improve on?
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