Information shared by CEO Kent Whitworth, MNHS Bargaining Team, and Leadership Team
Last updated: December 16, 2022

As a non-profit educational and cultural institution, the Minnesota Historical Society is committed to working with all of its employees to continue building a strong, fiscally responsible organization that serves all the people of Minnesota. 

The MNHS bargaining team is actively negotiating in good faith with the AFSCME Local 3173 table team to reach an initial contract that cares for employees and sets MNHS up for a sustainable future. The collective bargaining process with a newly formed union often takes time. 

MNHS respects the collective bargaining process and on principle will not discuss the specific details of negotiations, including tentative agreements, until a full agreement is reached on the contract with AFSCME Local 3173.

Below are responses from MNHS to some common questions about the process.

Why is the collective bargaining process taking so long?

Bargaining an initial contract takes time. It takes an average of 465 days for unions and employers to ratify their first contract, and the average number of days has been even higher from 2020 to the present (according to Bloomberg Law).

The non-supervisory MNHS staff vote to unionize was recognized by the National Labor Relations Board on November 29, 2021. Although MNHS management expressed interest in beginning negotiations in early 2022, MNHS wasn't notified that AFSCME Local 3173 was ready to begin negotiations until mid-May.

This is a nuanced negotiation because of the complexity and size of the workforce at MNHS, which extends throughout the state of Minnesota. The bargaining teams have been meeting almost weekly for 28 weeks and have exchanged more than 100 written proposals. Tentative agreements have been reached on several issues, including employment policies, regular work hours and workweek, overtime, flexible work scheduling, telework, and implementation of Employee Resource Groups.

What makes the workforce at MNHS so complex?

The AFSCME Local 3173 represents a wide range of positions within 35 job classifications, from part-time, entry-level service positions to full-time professional and technical positions such as historians, educators, financial experts, conservation staff, and building experts. The workforce also includes employees across the state who have different priorities. The MNHS bargaining team is considering all of these factors during negotiating sessions, which should not be rushed.

What is MNHS’s position on wage increases?

Employees at MNHS are hard-working and dedicated to each other and the mission of MNHS. Leadership appreciates this dedication and is committed to having a better compensated workforce. MNHS previously provided a 3% salary increase to all staff in September 2021 and an additional 3% in September 2022. Raising salaries supports our strategic initiative to create a sustainable future by investing in our human resources.

Since contract negotiations transitioned to economic issues in November, the MNHS bargaining team has presented offers to further raise employee compensation. MNHS uses the State of Minnesota’s salary grids to set position minimums and benchmarks wages with comparable nonprofits in our marketplace, including other history organizations and museums.

What benefits do MNHS employees receive today?

Health Insurance
Right now, MNHS employees have some of the best benefits in the state, due to our relationship with the State of Minnesota. Health care benefits are particularly strong and are provided at a reasonable cost to employees. MNHS provides significant financial contributions for health care coverage.

For 2023, contributions from MNHS to employees for health care costs were approximately $8,800 for single coverage and $24,000 for family coverage for employees working full-time (30-40 hours per week.) This is approximately 95% of the coverage for single coverage and 88% of family coverage, with employees responsible for approximately $460 annually for single coverage or $3,100 for family coverage.

MNHS contributions are significantly above the national average of approximately $6,400 for single coverage and $16,200 for family coverage, while employee contributions are below the national average (according to a 2021 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.) (See table below.)

Part-time employees who work 20-29 hours per week are eligible for pro-rated health insurance.

Retirement Contributions
All employees who work at MNHS for at least six months are currently eligible for retirement programs, including a matching contribution of 6.25% of salary, made by MNHS.

Holidays, Vacation, and Sick Time
Other current benefits to MNHS employees include 11 paid holidays per year and separate vacation and sick time accruals that are based on the number of hours worked per pay period and the length of service. For example, a new full-time employee would earn 2.59 weeks of paid vacation and 2.59 weeks of paid sick time in their first year of service. This amount would increase with additional experience.

2023 MNHS Health Care Insurance Coverage

  Employer Contributions Employee Contributions Percentage Covered by MNHS
Single Coverage $8,800 $460 95%
Family Coverage $24,000 $3,100 88%

2021 National Average (Kaiser Family Foundation)

  Employer Contributions Employee Contributions Percentage Covered by Employer
Single Coverage $6,400 $1,300 83%
Family Coverage $16,200 $6,000 75%

Is paid parental leave part of the ongoing negotiations?

Paid parental leave is included in the proposals offered by MNHS. MNHS is committed to reaching an agreement that covers paid parental leave.

What kind of organization is MNHS, and which laws govern its labor negotiations?

MNHS is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution, established in 1849. Together, we are dedicated to preserving our past, sharing our state’s history, and connecting people with history. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we must be wise stewards of the funding entrusted to us from donors and the state of Minnesota. Fiscal responsibility is necessary to preserve history for all Minnesotans and to create a sustainable future. MNHS employees are classified as private-sector employees and are covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

Is the compensation of the MNHS CEO in line with nonprofit industry standards?

MNHS is a large and complex nonprofit organization to operate, requiring an experienced and thoughtful leader and administrator in the CEO position. This is especially true as MNHS formulated and will implement a 5-year strategic plan. The MNHS Executive Council is responsible for hiring the Director and CEO and establishing compensation that is reasonable and appropriate to attract and retain exceptional talent to lead the organization.

As the pandemic disrupted MNHS operations and halted earned income at historic sites, CEO Kent Whitworth volunteered and took a significant pay cut. His current annual salary is $286,741 including benefits, which is 10% less than when he started and nearly 28% less than the average of CEOs at peer nonprofit arts and cultural institutions in the Twin Cities, based on an analysis of publicly reported data (Form 990s).

Why isn’t the CEO negotiating directly with AFSCME Local 3173?

The interests of the Minnesota Historical Society are being represented by the MNHS table team, who Kent Whitworth has designated as the contact group for negotiations. This is standard practice in contract negotiations and was agreed upon by AFSCME Local 3173 and MNHS table teams under the terms of their initial ground rules agreement. Anyone who attempts to negotiate directly with Kent Whitworth or other members of the leadership team is violating the terms and spirit of that agreement.