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Interior of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Photo: Ernst Moeksis/Flickr.
Interior of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Photo: Ernst Moeksis/Flickr.

Guggenheim Curators Push to Unionize

Looking for greater wage equity, more transparency, and increased job security following a tumultuous year, staff at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum are seeking to unionize. As first reported by the New York Times, workers including curators, conservators, educators, digital marketing staff, administrative staff, and front-of-house workers including those in visitor services, are petitioning to join Technical, Office and Professional Union Local 2110 of United Auto Workers (UAW).

“The Guggenheim has received notice of a petition from Local 2110 UAW to form a new union at the Museum and recognizes the right of its employees to enter collective bargaining,” said the museum in a statement. “The Museum will announce next steps shortly.”

The move comes after a year in which the Guggenheim, like many of its counterparts around the globe, was forced to cut staff, with 11 percent of employees losing their jobs. It also follows a fraught eighteen months that led to the Guggenheim’s February 2021 signing of its inaugural bargaining contract with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30. The terms of that agreement include increased wages for employees as well as formalized standards and increased parity for scheduling, work rules, and job levels, and covers twenty-two full-time and 145 on-call staff involved in the preparation, installation, and maintenance of exhibitions.

The efforts by Guggenheim staff are the latest wave of attempts by New York museum workers to unionize. Local 2110 already represents employees at New York institutions the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, and the New-York Historical Society, among other New York institutions; in mid-May, roughly 180 employees of the Whitney Museum of American Art filed (successfully, as it quickly turned out) for representation by Local 2110, and less than two weeks later, more than 130 workers the Brooklyn Museum took steps toward joining the union. In turn, these efforts reflect a growing shift nationwide, with staff at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles making similar pushes in the past two years.