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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.

Guggenheim Museum Workers Vote in Favor of Joining a Union

Art handlers, construction workers, and mechanics at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, along with other staffers who are involved with the installation of exhibitions and the maintenance of the institution’s facilities, voted in favor of forming a union on Thursday, June 27. Fifty-seven of the seventy-seven employees who participated in the election voted “yes” to joining Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which also represents workers of MoMA PS1. One hundred and forty-one people were eligible to vote. 

In the days leading up to the election, Zachary Petersen, who works in the museum’s arts services and preparation department, wrote his fellow coworkers to encourage them to vote. He said: “I sincerely believe a YES vote on unionization will bring about a better future for everyone involved; for the employees in terms of better compensation and working conditions, and for the museum itself in terms of a better overall product to the viewing public and an even better standing in the art world at large.”

The decision to form a union wasn’t an easy one. Some employees were uncertain whether unionizing would bring about positive change at the institution. One anonymous worker told Artnet that he felt “railroaded” into joining the union and is worried about what comes next. The benefits and disadvantages of unionizing has been on the minds of many arts professionals across the country. Employees at the New Museum in New York, which is still in contract negotiations; the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York; and the Frye Art Museum in Seattle recently went through a similar process, all ultimately voting to unionize.

In response to Thursday’s vote, the Guggenheim released a statement that reads: “The Guggenheim respects the right of employees to decide whether they wish to be represented by a union and encouraged all eligible employees to vote. . . . The museum is committed to maintaining a fair, respectful, and positive work environment for all Guggenheim employees, whether or not they chose to be represented by a union. We recognize and appreciate the contributions of the talented staff who bring our mission to life every day.”