As Museums Close, Local 1503 Members Stand Guard
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
William Vance is a Special Patrolmen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He works the day shift, where normally the museum is bustling with thousands of visitors touring and dozens of delivery trucks are coming and going at New York’s 150-year-old, iconic institution.
“It’s strange to walk the halls of a vastly empty museum,” said the Local 1503 member. Since the mid-March state-imposed shutdown of public spaces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vance said, “I don’t see people.”
MMA houses rare collections of artifacts from ancient empires of Africa and Europe — Ghana, Mali, Egypt, Rome and Greece, rare photographs and films of New York and more.
Vance patrols the museum and maintains crowd control. As a Peace Officer, he can arrest unruly visitors, though it is a rare occurrence, he said.
Vance guards an MMA entrance where deliveries are trucked in daily, but as the global coronavirus pandemic continues, that has stopped. These are not normal times.
Museums are closed to visitors in response to the lethal viral outbreak. MMA invites visitors to take virtual tours online and practice social distancing to stave the spread of COVID-19.
“I watched as this developed and saw and read about what France and other countries were doing,” said Rawle Campbell, president of Local 1503. “I immediately started labor-management meetings to come up with solutions to possible schedule reductions. The local also uses its website and social media to keep members informed.”
Working skeleton crews similar to when the museum closes for three major holidays, Local 1503 members at MMA continue work to protect priceless art collections and maintain the buildings’ climates to preserve thousands of fragile antiquities housed at MMA’s three locations.
Security and three engineers, as required by law, work around the clock in three shifts.
Vance, a 13-year museum employee, is part of a rotating skeleton crew at MMA. Other union members work a flexible schedule, explained Campbell who with DC 37 leaders worked to have MMA management provide flex hours and pay, and face masks for its employees to wear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m happy to have a union that’s here for us” Vance said. “Right away Rep Dan McCabe and President Rawle Campbell went to work meeting with management to protect our health, our jobs and negotiate pay and benefits during this crisis.”
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