Artists Union England representatives at an austerity march in Manchester, UK.

England Establishes Its First Union for Artists

Artists’ Union England (AUE) has been established as the first trade union for visual, applied, and socially engaged artists in England as of June 6, 2016. The group received its certificate of independence from the government, proving that it is a legitimate union free of employers’ influence and that it operates democratically for and on behalf of its professional membership. Their efforts to have the union ratified began in 2013 with a small number of visual artists who noticed that all cultural workers, except for artists, have independent representation from a trade union. As artists in the UK make an average annual income between $7,000 and $12,000 and are often asked to work for free or for “exposure,” they decided to unionize.

It took three years and about $6,400 for certification. The AUE said in a statement: “A new landscape for artists now exists . . . These core workers now have a trade union to represent them, which will work for better pay and conditions across England; where they can work together to challenge exploitative practice, be represented independently and democratically and raise the bar for artists.”

The founding group of artists consists of Angela Kennedy, Sally Sheinman, Katriona Beales, Theresa Easton, Chris Cudlip, Vanessa Maurice-Williams, Hayley Hare, Margareta Kern, Mary Vettise, Bridget Harvey, Donna Cheshire, and Linda Sgoluppi.