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MoMA Union Workers Lead Protest Before Contract Negotiations

Around two hundred curators, designers, registrars, librarians, editors, and visitor assistants working at New York’s Museum of Modern Art abandoned their posts yesterday, gathering in the institution’s lobby to protest the current contract offered by the museum’s administration. The demands issued by the employees, who are part of MoMA Local 2110—a chapter of the United Auto Workers Union that represents more than 250 workers at MoMA—include salary increases, better health care, and job security for junior staff. The union has been without a contract since May 20, and collective bargaining resumes today, August 7.

During the thirty-minute demonstration, employees chanted, sang, and marched through the streets, eventually winding from West Fifty-Fourth Street to Sixth Avenue and finally reaching an entrance being used until the museum’s $400 million renovation is completed. The union says that over half the employees working overtime to meet the expansion’s 2019 opening aren’t being paid for the extra hours. Among the chants that could be heard were “Modern art! Ancient Wages” and “What do we want? A contract! When do we want it? Now!” Wearing blue union shirts and holding signs reading “#MoMA Solidarity” and “#WeAreMoMA,” the demonstrators sang “Solidarity Forever,” a union anthem written by Ralph Chaplin in 1915, in front of hundreds of museum visitors. 

The crowd later gathered around union president Maida Rosenstein, who encouraged all union members to join in the protest. “Hopefully, MoMA will get the message. If they don’t, we’re gonna do it again and again and again until they make a fair contract offer,” she said. If both sides fail to reach an agreement, the union could vote to strike, as they did in 2000. That was the last time they went on strike, and it lasted one hundred and thirty-four days. “Obviously we would prefer to have a peaceful resolution to this negotiation, no question,” Rosenstein said after the demonstration. “But we have been on strike before, and if we had to do it again, we would.”