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MoCA Grand Avenue. Photo: Elon Schoenholz. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
MoCA Grand Avenue. Photo: Elon Schoenholz. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

LA MoCA Will Voluntarily Recognize New Union

Two weeks after more than 120 staffers of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Los Angeles, launched a campaign for union representation, the institution declared on Friday that it would voluntarily recognize the new union. Initially the museum responded to the organizing efforts by saying that it did not believe the union drive was in the best interest of its employees. The turnaround means that the employees will not have to participate in a formal National Labor Relations Board election—instead, an independent auditor will verify the employees’ union cards so that contract negotiations can begin.

“We have been outspoken for over a year about our vision for the museum as a civic-minded public institution that supports the community,” museum director Klaus Biesenbach told the Los Angeles Times. “That is as important internally for our staff as it is externally.” He added that accepting the employees’ union drive is “in full alignment with this vision we have set forth for our institution. Ultimately, we’re taking this step to come together as one team, one MoCA.”

Seeking higher pay and more benefits, workers from several departments at the museum, including curatorial, education, and visitor engagement, met with management on November 22 to inform them of their intent to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which also represents employees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.  

The news coincides with the Marciano Art Foundation’s announcement that it is permanently closing its museum on Wilshire Boulevard. Earlier this month, the foundation, which was established by Maurice and Paul Marciano of the fashion label Guess, laid off dozens of employees after they revealed plans to unionize. Shortly thereafter, the museum issued a statement saying that it was closing its current exhibitions and would remain closed indefinitely.

The move prompted former staffers to protest outside of the museum’s locked gates as well as at Guess stores on Black Friday. Union organizers also filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the dismissals were discriminatory and in violation of federal law.

A statement released by the private museum reads: “The foundation’s only goal was to give back to greater Los Angeles by fostering an appreciation of the arts accessible to everyone and free to the public. We are grateful to the public and the art community for their enthusiastic support of this ambitious project and all that we have accomplished during the past two and a half years. . . . Maurice and Paul Marciano will continue to support and encourage artists and curators internationally in their creative endeavors.”