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The Brooklyn Museum in New York. Photo: Elisa Rolle/Flickr.
The Brooklyn Museum in New York. Photo: Elisa Rolle/Flickr.

Brooklyn Museum Staff Vote to Unionize

Employees of New York’s Brooklyn Museum on August 16 voted overwhelmingly to join the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). Out of a pool of 110 employees including conservators, curators, editors, front-desk workers, retail staff, and event organizers, 68 voted to agree to be represented by Technical, Office, and Professional Union, Local 2110, the branch of the UAW that already represents museum employees at New York’s Bronx Museum of the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, and New-York Historical Society. The move came less than three months after the group petitioned the US National Labor Board, seeking to unionize, and is part of a broader wave of organization at arts institutions nationwide.

“We see many advantages to having a more democratic voice within the institution,” said union organizer Natalya Swanson, a conservator at the museum. “I think that the idea of collectively bargaining is of interest for reasons like clear paths for promotion, pay equity, job security, retaining the things we like about our workplace, creating minimum standards in general.”

The Brooklyn Museum, like its counterparts globally, was tremendously impacted by the pandemic, laying off twenty-nine workers in July of 2020. As well, noted Local 2110 president Maida Rosenstein, “it’s endemic at museums that people have been low paid. Even highly educated professionals are low paid.” Rosenstein also bemoaned the practice of relying on part-time workers in order to avoid paying benefits, which she characterized as “ubiquitous at museums.”

The Brooklyn Museum issued a statement in support of the organizing workers, which read in part, “Above all, we are committed to supporting our staff and have respected their right to organize.” The museum additionally asserted that it would “remain committed to working with the union moving forward.” Security, operations, maintenance, and administrative staff at the museum are already represented by District Council 37 Local 1502.

This article has been updated to correct the number of employees who voted in favor of joining the UAW.