PETITION TO THE DIA’S LEADERSHIP AND THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
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We, DIA Staff Action, have created this petition to the Detroit Institute of Arts’ leadership and the Board of Directors asking for immediate action to address poor working conditions and ineffective leadership.
We ask that you sign and share this petition, for the betterment of staff, the institution and the communities it serves.
DIA Staff Action (DIASA) is the umbrella term for all current and former Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) staff who are organizing to improve working conditions and the DIA’s services for its communities. We are a multidisciplinary team with numerous contributors who have worked across departments at the DIA. Due to the high risk of retaliation, and to protect this project, we choose to remain anonymous.
There is not a safe internal system in which to hold leadership accountable or raise concerns without danger of retaliation. After years of unsuccessful attempts, we have been pushed to go public as our last resort. Ultimately, we’re identifying and bringing to light years of a hostile work environment under Mr. Salort-Pons’ leadership and the mistreatment of staff. There is no alignment with what the public is shown versus what is really happening within the institution. This results not only in poor working conditions, but we acknowledge that the communities DIA promises to serve are not being addressed in sincere, equitable and inclusive ways.
It saddens us that we have reached this point, but far too many people have suffered and have been in fear for far too long. Something has to be done.
DIASA is protected under Sections 7 and 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.
We seek to pursue:
- The transformation of labor conditions, addressing classist, sexist, colonist practices that will result in a more equitable, inclusive and kinder work environment.
- To hold the institution responsible for increasing transparency and accountability to the communities we serve.
- Equitable community agreements and engagements that demonstrate the value of the institution to its visitors and the community at large in concrete, measurable actions.
- The full support and ongoing promotion of the DIA’s visitor-centered approach to education, accessibility, community engagement and evaluation processes.
WHAT’S HAPPENING AT DIA?
DIA Staff Action has compiled this Evidence Document (follow link) that speaks to how the work environment has worsened under Salort-Pons’ leadership. The document focuses on four general areas:
- The DIA’s hostile work environment where staff, especially BIPOC and women, are unable to thrive
The DIA’s public commitment to diversity and inclusion, that does not match the actions within the organization where these initiatives and programs are under-funded and disregarded as an essential museum work
The DIA’s regressive museum practices and shift away from a visitor-centered approach
The DIA’s poor labor conditions and lack of staff support during COVID-19
Over the past few months, DIASA has consulted with local activists, community organizers, mentors across the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector and other national organizations to prepare petitions for the DIA.
Since the publication of recent reports of staff dissatisfaction at the DIA, the museum’s leadership has painted a picture of contrition without providing clear, satisfactory next steps on how they will address staff issues. We’ve heard this before. We reject the idea that the current museum leadership can fix these serious problems through their usual means: hiring expensive consultants and announcing baseless new projects. This Petition for Immediate Action provides a starting point for the transformation of the DIA’s workplace culture.
REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
- We ask that Salvador Salort-Pons be removed from the position as Director, President & Chief Executive Officer and from any other involvement at the Detroit Institute of Arts by August 31, 2020.
- We ask that a new staff engagement survey is conducted across the institution and that the survey guarantees anonymity. Staff survey results and analysis must be available to all staff.
- We ask for a comprehensive independent investigation into the multiple accusations of poor leadership, work hostility, racism, sexism and sexual harassment over the past five years. A report on the results should be available to all staff.
- We ask for an independent investigation into the alleged misconduct and potential abuse of power by Salort-Pons and Eugene Gargaro, Jr., Chairman of the Board. The final report should be released to all staff and include how the DIA selected the firm reviewing the Whistleblower Aid complaint.
- We ask for immediate revision of the COVID-19 strategic plan to ensure that staff and visitors are not exposed to health or safety risks. Front-line staff, including both part-time and full-time employees in various levels of seniority, must be included in the revision process.
- We ask that DIA leadership and Board of Directors acknowledge how extremely low staff satisfaction has been, and continues to be, under the leadership of Salort-Pons, and that it urgently addresses poor labor conditions.
- We ask that DIA leadership and Board of Directors recognize and honor DIASA’s efforts, and agree to ongoing dialogue with DIASA for the review and amelioration of the long-standing problems related to museum practices and organizational structures.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act”) guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.” Section 8(a)(1) of the Act states that it is an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the Act.
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