Thursday, February 27, 2014

Museum & Library Workers Seek Better Treatment
Photograph of the main entrance to the central branch of The Carnegie Library
of Pittsburgh in the Oakland section of the city.
(Image Source: Friends of the Zeiss; Photographer: Lynne S. Walsh)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Last week (February 19), the Pittsburgh City Paper ran a story on a new initiative by museum and library workers in the city, to seek better pay, benefits, and greater say in the work place:

O'Driscoll, Bill. "Painted Into a Corner.
"Museum and library workers are looking for better treatment at work.
"Ultimately, $7.25 an hour isn't a suitable wage for any position, and especially not in the Carnegie system."
Pittsburgh City Paper 2014 Feb. 19: 58. 
Link >>>

For many of these cultural-industry workers, the issue came to the forefront when some non-profit employers cut employee hours, to avoid the expense of complying with the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thus denying these part-time workers the opportunity to purchase discounted health care insurance. The newspaper article notes that both the Carnegie Museum and Carnegie Library systems in the city now restrict part-time workers to 25 hours per week, to avoid the 30-hour-per-week threshold which would require compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

Glenn A. Walsh, who was employed with Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center) from 1982 to 1991, and who served as a Life Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2000, wrote a letter-to-the-editor regarding this issue. The Pittsburgh City Paper published Mr. Walsh's letter in the INCOMING column on page 6 of the newspaper's February 26 issue:

Re: Museum and library workers are looking for better treatment at work (Feb. 19)

After having worked for 10 years at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium in Allegheny Center, I do understand and sympathize with the museum and library workers mentioned in the article. Low wages, few benefits and part-time work is typical in most nonprofits.

As a Library Trustee for the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie during the late 1990s, I can tell you that many nonprofits scrape by from year to year, often raising just enough money to keep the doors open. Even nonprofits with endowments took a big hit during this last recession, with the value of their endowments declining, as well a decline in the wealth of their major donors.

Just last week, the [Pittsburgh] Post-Gazette reported that the Carnegie Science Center's latest $55 million expansion plan may be “extremely ambitious and unachievable” according to a private fundraising analysis. A decade ago, an even more ambitious, $90 million expansion plan, designed by a noted French architect, fell-through due to a lack of funds.

Most nonprofits rely on some governmental funding but, particularly for non-library regional assets, private, foundation and corporate funding is critical. Such funding has been declining over several decades due to Pittsburgh's population decline and corporate consolidations, and earned revenue is limited by the audience's ability to pay.

Although high staff turnover costs money, regrettably, most nonprofits have determined it is less expensive than higher staff wages and benefits.

--- Glenn A. Walsh
                Mount Lebanon

Pitz, Marylynne. "Carnegie Science Center expansion plan stumbles out of the gate"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2014 Feb. 18.

Link >>>

Info Desk Pittsburgh - Cultural Industry Workers' Declaration of Rights:
Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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