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New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Guggenheim Signs Inaugural Bargaining Contract with Union

After a fraught span of over a year that saw New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum staff protesting in the streets and, shortly thereafter, the face of the museum lit up with slogans protesting its treatment of workers, the Guggenheim Foundation today signed its first collective bargaining agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30. The agreement covers twenty-two full-time staff—including engineering and facilities professionals and art services, preparation, and fabrication specialists—and 145 on-call staff involved in the preparation, installation, and maintenance of exhibitions.

Among the terms of the agreement are increased wages for employees, as well as formalized standards and increased parity for scheduling, work rules, and job levels.

The unionized workers, all of whom voted on June 27, 2019, to be represented by Local 30, had accused the Guggenheim of stalling in its negotiations with the union, which additionally represents installers and maintenance workers at MoMA PS1. After a March 2020 negotiation session was canceled owing to the looming Covid-19 pandemic, the unionized workers sent a letter to the museum’s trustees, pleading for their assistance in goading the Guggenheim’s leadership into action. After a long summer during which the museum closed as the coronavirus raged in New York, and tensions rose regarding racism within the institution, the unionized workers protested in front of the museum prior to its September reopening, with artist-activist collective Artists for Workers and the Illuminator collaborating in support of the workers, and of those at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, to project slogans such as “Open for Exploitation” and “Austerity Wages for Workers” on the institution’s eight-story facade.

“We are pleased to have reached a contract agreement with IUOE Local 30,” said Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong in a statement. “I am grateful to our skilled colleagues who are members of IUOE Local 30 for their contributions towards fulfilling the museum’s mission. I look forward to an ongoing productive relationship with these talented employees and their union representatives.”