Philadelphia Museum Workers Seek Election to Join USW

Contact: Joe Smydo,, 412-562-2281

(Philadelphia) – About 70 workers at the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site today filed for a union election as they seek to join the United Steelworkers (USW) and gain a greater voice at one of the region’s most important cultural sites.

The workers—educators and visitors’ services and retail workers as well as facilities and administrative staff—requested a formal vote through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB will set a date for the election.

“We’re unionizing because we need to advocate for ourselves when it comes to compensation and safety, without fear of reprisal,” noted Annie Finnegan, a visitors’ services worker for three years. “A union provides that seat at the table.” 

Open-air tours of the sprawling complex subject workers and guests to extreme temperatures and safety risks that management has failed to address, Finnegan noted, adding that the “living ruin”—once a home to Willie Sutton and Al Capone—requires constant care that front-line workers understand better than anyone else.

“Our input will mean better experiences for all who walk through the doors,” said Hannah G. Boettger, a senior specialist in advancement services and analytics. “Our mission is to challenge guests to rethink American corrections. We want them to get the most out of their visits.”

Workers also cited the need for job security and a transparent promotion process and for protection against discrimination and unfair discipline. Right now, management pushes back when workers raise those issues. 

“That’s got to change. They pride themselves on pointing out that folks who are incarcerated, and folks who used to be incarcerated, need a voice. Frankly, I think that’s true of us as well,” said Gary McCormick, an Eastern State educator.

Hundreds of workers at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh also voted to join the USW in 2020. 

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-6961

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222