Learn what it means to be in a union.

A bit about unions:

Unions give workers a voice in what goes on in their workplace. Through collectively bargaining, we can win workplace improvements that are legally binding. To vote on constitutions and contracts, take part in elections of officers, and attend contract negotiations, you must be a member of a union.

The union comprises your fellow coworkers. With a union, we work together to negotiate a legally binding contract with museum management that covers all union-eligible employees. Bargaining allows us to set clear standards for our own working conditions. Once a contract is agreed upon by both parties, and ratified by a vote of the union membership, museum management can not change the terms of the contract. Being in a union means we have a voice when negotiating with management, and the power to fight for more meaningful improvements than any one of us could achieve working alone.

What goes into a contract?

After a successful election, we will take a survey of union membership to determine what specifics will be addressed in the contract. Using the information gathered, our bargaining committee will begin writing contract proposals addressing issues such as wages, comprehensive trainings, benefits, harassment, and job security. Those proposals will be brought to negotiation sessions with museum management. At these sessions, both sides bring their own proposals and attempt in good faith to compromise.

How are decisions made?

Members can vote on constitutions and contracts, take part in elections of officers, or voice any comments or concerns at our member meetings hosted by elected union officers.

How do dues work?

Dues are a means for members to invest in one another and build a stronger union. Dues are what give unions the means to secure solid contracts and represent employees in disputes with their employer. Dues will be automatically collected by your employer after the union membership votes to ratify our first contract. No member will pay dues up until that contract is approved by a democratic vote.

Can I lose my job or be punished for publicly supporting a union?

It is against the law for management to fire or otherwise punish a union-eligible worker for being a union member or taking part in protected union activities. There is power in numbers, so we encourage workers to be public in their support of the union. If you believe you are being retaliated against because of your support for the union contact us immediately at this email

 It is illegal for management to retaliate against workers for supporting a union.

Welcome! We’re glad you’re here. The first step is to sign a digital membership card. Learn more about membership and how to sign up.

I want to know more about the union. Who can help me?

Our union members are thrilled to inform any new PTM staff about the in’s-and-out’s of union membership! contact us here

Why did PTM workers form a union? 

We unionized in 2023 to fight for:

  • a fair pay structure, more affordable and comprehensive benefits, and human-centered sick and family leave policies
  • robust and transparent processes for on-boarding, scheduling, job training, and promotion.
  • our right to work in a safe and inclusive space free from discrimination and harassment.

With a seat at the decision-making table, PTM United will have a say in the policies that affect us most.

Who is in the union?

The term for the group of positions covered by a union is called the “bargaining unit.” Eligible workers who hold positions in the bargaining unit can sign up as union members. PTM United’s bargaining unit is made up of your fellow coworkers at PTM including the Visitor Experience, Museum Learning, Exhibits departments and more.

Am I union-eligible?

In general: if you work at the PTM, do not have hiring or firing power, and are not an employee of a third-party contractor, you’re most likely eligible. Email us with your job title at this email for confirmation!

Who is AFSCME DC 47?

Our union is affiliated with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). AFSCME District Council 47 is a progressive labor union that represents workers in the nonprofit, higher education, and government sectors in the Philadelphia region. AFSCME DC 47 represents workers at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Free Library, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, The PMA, and the City of Philadelphia. AFSCME recently launched a website about all the AFSCME-affiliated unions at cultural organizations across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Walker Art Museum, Penn Museum, and, now The Please Touch Museum.

“Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war on truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack.” 

Martin Jay Levitt, 1993, Confessions of a Union Buster

Management Tactics & Anti-Union Talking Points

Be Curious. Get the Facts.

Unions are an effective way for workers to negotiate better working conditions and a voice at the decision making table. Management may feel intimidated by unions and employ scare tactics in an attempt to dissuade employees from joining. However, anti-union rhetoric is as predictable as it is easily disproven.

Email From Management:

Below are excerpt from an all-staff email sent by the CEO of the PTM, Trish Wallenabach. Since management has no legal way to retaliate against union members, they employ half-truths and vague language in an attempts to scare potential members from signing up.

Other Common Anti-Union Talking-Points:


Union dues are the financial backbone of the union. Dues of current union members will help pay for our legal representation during our election and contract campaigns. No one will pay dues until a contract is negotiated and ratified by a vote of PTMU members. PTM United will fight for better wages for all workers which will more than offset the dues.

“The union is a 3rd party.”

Although we are partnered with AFSCME District Council 47 and Local 397, our union is made up of a super-majority of PTM staff! All decision making and voting will be carried out exclusively by PTM staff.

“The union may force you to go on strike.”

No, like with every major decision, union members vote to go on strike. The threat of strike is a powerful negotiating tool for unions, however most contracts are reached without a strike. A strike would only be considered as a last resort effort if management refuses negotiate in good faith.

“We support unions, but we don’t need one here!”

A supermajority of staff disagree. An empowered workforce fighting for better working conditions is never a bad thing. PTM is a beloved institution that services over 500,000 children and families from the Philadelphia region and beyond, and it is the hard work and dedication of the staff that makes that possible. PTM United will fight to make the museum a safe and inclusive space free of discrimination and harassment where we can build family-sustaining careers.

“The union can impose a contract without a vote.”

No, we will vote on a contract before it gets ratified.

“We’ll lose our flexibility because of rigid union rules.”

Union rules will protect our jobs and make our workplace safer and more equitable! Guaranteeing better wages, benefits, and working conditions feels like rigidity to an institution not used to providing them; These guarantees liberate the workforce by enabling us to do our jobs in a safe environment, with better job protections, and more power in museum-wide decision making.

“With a union contract, you could gain things, but you could lose things, too.”

The union will be voting on any contract before it is ratified. Nothing can be lost without a vote, and we will not settle. PTM United will fight for better working conditions, pay, and benefits. The same hard work and dedication that makes PTM so beloved is being directed into guaranteeing wall-to-wall improvements for all workers.

“With a union, you won’t be able to talk directly to managers anymore.”

Unless museum management acts illegally or in bad faith, our working relationships with managers won’t change. It is illegal for management to retaliate against any worker for being a part of a union.