By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Local 1503 settled a grievance on behalf of 80 Security Officers and Senior Security Officers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after management denied them an opportunity to schedule their vacations. Additionally, the Met had robbed 40 guards of their vacation time when management forfeited their accrued leave time
In October, the union and the museum resolved the grievance in the members’ favor without arbitration. The Met agreed to make 40 guards whole and pay them a collective lump sum of $45,000 for 2,700 hours of forfeited vacation time. The museum also agreed to guarantee everyone the chance to schedule at least three weeks’ annual vacation.
“Management claimed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of union staff, they could not allow the guards to use their vacation time, which is a contract violation,” said Local 1503 President Rawle Campbell. “I made it clear to the museum that they are contractually obligated to schedule vacation. When they didn’t respond in a timely manner, I then proceeded to file the grievance.”
“Some members had accrued huge leave balances during the 2020 pandemic lockdown. When workers began scheduling their vacations, museum management found itself in a predicament: They could not let guards take time off without jeopardizing its security operations,” explained Council Rep Dan McCabe.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to priceless collections of art and antiquities that Local 1503 members keep secure.
As New York City began reopening in phases, the museum slowly ramped up its reopening. Local leaders said they proposed all sorts of solutions to the scheduling problem, but management was in complete control and disregarded their suggestions.
“The Met has a use it or lose it vacation policy. When a worker has more than eight weeks of leave on the books, management cannot take away the time without any option to reschedule,” Campbell said. Local 1503’s contract with the Metropolitan Museum of Art states that workers who have more than two years of accrued leave, but do not use it, forfeit the time.
“We told management in advance that their plan would violate the contract, but they moved on it anyway,” he said.
Local 1503 members began to organize themselves around the issue. Union leaders made progress in labor-management meetings to resolve the grievance, so members took no visible action.