Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers strike for fair wages

Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers strike for fair wages
Courtesy of OPSEU.
Leading lights  -   Gallery owners

We go to galleries to surround ourselves with the delights of the exhibited artists, meandering through peaceful halls to engage in quiet contemplation of works past and present. But it’s easy to forget that there is a bustling team making it such that these serene and beautiful moments can happen. And just like every other workforce, they are feeling the squeeze of unfair wages—and it’s because of this that the Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers have gone on strike.


As of March 26th, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers, Local 535 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, has voted to strike after ten months of negotiations with the AGO. The latest offer was not representative of necessary living wages in the rapidly worsening housing crisis of Toronto, an issue keenly felt coast to coast. After three years of wage freezes and the tumultuous issues in the sector stemming from the pandemic, the union has finally decided enough is enough.


As one of the largest museums in North America, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers fairly point out the AGO’s ability to throw money around. From 2020 to 2021 their CEO Stephan Jost took home almost $800 thousand. Recently the gallery has announced plans for a $100 million expansion for modern and contemporary art. While it may have stated a deficit in its last year, the gallery certainly isn’t hurting for money—but the union members certainly are.


Whether the Art Gallery of Ontario’s workers will get to the agreement they desire is to be determined in the face of such a titanic target for bargaining. Hopefully, the AGO will take stock beyond its own growth and do right by those who keep the ship running.