On March 4th, 2022, Wex Workers United publicly exercised our right to organize and sought voluntary recognition of our union. Below is our letter to Wex leadership.
We, staff members from across departments at the Wexner Center for the Arts, are joining together to form a union. We write today to seek voluntary recognition of our efforts. We collectively share a desire for an equitable, transparent, and sustainable workplace for employees at all levels, and we believe our endeavor is inextricably linked to the center’s stated mission and ongoing commitment to social justice and institutional transformation. These goals can only be realized through deep structural change.
The last two years have greatly exacerbated long-standing issues at the Wex and Ohio State, including pay equity and working culture, while raising additional concerns for our health and safety. During the early pandemic, staff bore the brunt of furloughs, reduced working hours, and the elimination of six positions. Our workloads were not lessened during this time of reduced staff—in fact, many of us took on additional work beyond our job descriptions while receiving little to no compensation for completing these extra duties. When the center reopened to the public, some of the lowest paid among us were required to put our health on the line and return to public-facing responsibilities on site, before vaccines were available.
These experiences directly led us to turn to each other in solidarity and form a union. We have been further emboldened by the Wex’s recent pro-labor programming (including LaToya Ruby Frazier’s exhibition The Last Cruze and the retrospective Julia Reichert: 50 Years in Film) and our center-wide focus on DEAI work with the Racial Equity Institute. We are grounded in the rich history of labor organizing in Ohio and inspired by the recent wave of unionization that has swept the arts and culture world.
Unionizing allows us to have a clear, consistent, legal, and equitable voice and sense of stability across ongoing leadership shifts and changes. Research shows that unionizing leads to more equitable workplaces for all and especially benefits workers most negatively impacted by white supremacy1. In a predominantly white institution, a union provides a concrete means of holding us accountable to our stated commitment to building a more diverse, just, and equitable workplace.
We ask that Wex leadership voluntarily recognize our union, Wex Workers United, formed through American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 8. This is the best way for leadership to demonstrate that they are listening to staff and are seriously invested in improving morale and organizational culture. We call upon Wex leadership to uphold its commitment to equity by respecting our democratic right to organize without interference and to negotiate a contract with us in good faith.
We see and appreciate the efforts of upper management to attempt to address many of these issues for the very first time in the history of the organization. But lasting, systemic change must ultimately come from the bottom up. Today we ask that you join us as we move the Wex toward a better future.
Wex Workers United
AFSCME Council 8
“[Unionizing] is not simply about labor rights, it’s about civil rights, equity, and if you bring everyone up equally, this is what will allow us to survive, and keep us together and unified.”
—LaToya Ruby Frazier [in conversation with Julia Reichert and Sherrod Brown, Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, February 18, 2020]