Supporters for the striking workers included local artist Alain Paiement, whose solo exhibition “Bleu de Bleu” opened at the museum that same evening. Museum staff were keen to stress that their action was not a blockade: visitors were still encouraged to enter the premises and view the shows. The picket officially ended at 7 p.m., one hour after the evening’s openings began.
All the same, some supporters, including Paiement, declined to enter before the protest ended.
“Cross picket lines? I don’t do that,” Paiement stated while standing outside the museum with a red union flag tucked into his pocket. “We’re colleagues,” he said, noting that he has been through strikes at l’Université du Québec à Montréal, where he is a professor in the École des arts visuels et médiatiques.
Referring to the museum’s on-hold renovation plans, which relate to the current provincial budget issues for the museum, Paiement said, “This transformation, it’s very difficult for an institution, and I think they should have re-strengthened the team so they could go through that. And they did the opposite, thinking, ‘Okay, you can have ejectable people with these temporary contracts.’ There’s a sense that…it ruins the attachment to the institution. This is where I’m very supportive.”
Other local artists visibly expressing support for the striking workers included Didier Morelli, Jo-Anne Balcaen and photographer Guy L’Heureux.
Luis Jacob, a Toronto artist included in another MAC exhibition that opened that evening, did not attend but offered a comment via email: “I absolutely support workers’ right to strike in order to resolve their grievances. Almost always, striking is only a measure of last resort.”
The striking staff were also joined throughout the day by members of the museum’s technical and support staff, whose separate union does have a current collective agreement.
Union reps for curators, registrars and other professional staff noted that these workers still have nine remaining strike days to deploy as they choose.