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Art & Culture

Brooklyn Museum Workers Demand Equitable Employment Terms

  • Craig Miller
  • |
  • May 2, 2023
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  • 2 minute read
  • |
Brooklyn Museum Workers Demand Equitable Employment Terms
Key Takeaways
  • Union members at the Brooklyn Museum staged a protest outside the annual Artists Ball to express discontent with working conditions and remuneration packages at the museum.
  • The unionization process began in 2021, with talks between the museum's administration and union representatives starting in January 2022 but reaching an impasse over healthcare benefits, job stability, and salary adjustments.
  • The union's demands include a 16.25% salary increase over three and a half years, enhanced working hours, job security, and pay raises for part-time employees, while the museum's leadership has reportedly proposed a 3.5-year contract that would implement department-wide pay increases, culminating in an overall 9% raise by the end of the contract term.
  • The union accuses the museum of attempting to undermine their bargaining power by eliminating union positions and creating higher-paying roles that are excluded from the union.
  • Demonstrations are targeted at the museum's management, not the artists or guests in attendance, and union representatives have resumed negotiations with renewed determination to secure a fair contract.

 

As the Brooklyn Museum welcomed attendees to its annual Artists Ball on Wednesday night, the institution’s union members staged a protest outside the event.

They expressed discontent with the prevailing working conditions and remuneration packages at the museum.

The employees initiated the unionization process in 2021, with 130 staff members from various departments opting to join the Technical, Office, and Professional Union, Local 2110.

This union falls under the United Automobile Workers (UAW) umbrella.

Deadlocked Negotiations

Talks between the museum’s administration and union representatives commenced in January 2022 but have since reached an impasse, primarily due to disagreements surrounding healthcare benefits, job stability, and salary adjustments.

The union alleges that staff members have not received any pay raises since 2020, even as the cost of living and rent prices in New York City continue to surge.

While some progress has been made in addressing healthcare-related concerns, financial matters remain unsettled. 

The union’s demands include a 16.25% salary increase over three and a half years, enhanced working hours, job security, and pay raises for part-time employees.

Benchmarking with Similar Organizations

The museum’s leadership has reportedly proposed a 3.5-year contract that would implement department-wide pay increases, culminating in an overall 9% raise by the end of the contract term.

However, the union maintains that this offer falls short of the results achieved through negotiations at comparable establishments, such as the Whitney Museum and the Bronx Museum.

The union further accuses the museum of attempting to undermine their bargaining power by eliminating union positions and creating higher-paying roles that are excluded from the union.

The employees initiated the unionization process in 2021, with 130 staff members from various departments opting to join the Technical, Office, and Professional Union, Local 2110.

Demonstrations Target Administration, Not Creatives

Union members have emphasized that their protests are directed at the museum’s management rather than the artists or guests in attendance.

They believe that the artists, including guest of honor Carrie Mae Weems, would support their efforts to establish a fair work environment.

Owen O’Brien, a manager at the museum, expressed optimism that the demonstrations would resonate with the artists and eventually lead to improvements in salary and working conditions.

Resuming Negotiation Talks

With a renewed sense of determination, union representatives have resumed negotiations, aspiring to secure a contract resembling those established at other renowned New York institutions.

Carmen Hermo, an associate curator at the museum, stressed the importance of providing the museum’s employees with equitable treatment, particularly given its international reputation and stature within the art world.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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