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New Museum staffers and union members demonstrating outside the museum on Tuesday, June 25.
New Museum staffers and union members demonstrating outside the museum on Tuesday, June 25.

New Museum Union Plans to Strike if Contract Remains Unsettled

After months of tense contract negotiations between the New Museum and its union, 96 percent of union members voted yesterday to set a strike deadline if an agreement is not reached. 

“The museum still has a long way to go towards a fair contract,” said Dana Kopel, a senior editor and publications coordinator at the museum and union bargaining committee member. “If they remain unwilling to meet our demands for just compensation and working conditions, the union is prepared to strike.”

According to a release, talks between union members and the institution have been unfruitful with regard to fair pay, overtime, health benefits, and seniority rights. “Low pay is a universal complaint, particularly in light of disproportionately high executive salaries and the museum’s $89 million expansion campaign,” reads a union statement. If the bargaining process breaks down, the union will call a meeting early next week to plan a strike date.

In January, New Museum workers voted in favor of unionizing with UAW (United Auto Workers) Local 2110, which also represents workers at the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Bronx Museum, and the Tenement Museum. Prior to the vote, the New Museum hired the union-busting consultancy firm Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan. In June, the union escalated pressure to push along the bargaining process by organizing a rally outside the museum during the opening of its summer exhibition program.

“Unfortunately, the museum’s position has been overwhelmingly at odds with both the needs of its employees and its own mission statement: they have disparaged our proposals for equitable salaries, health coverage for all workers, and necessary union rights,” said Liz Mahan, visitor services associate and New Museum bargaining committee member.

The New Museum told Artforum in a statement: “As has been previously reported, we have been bargaining for six months, since March 28. We did not receive the union’s economic proposals until the end of May. The union was unavailable for most of June. We responded with our economic counterproposal at a meeting in early July. Since that time we’ve had productive sessions and have made considerable progress: we’ve accepted many of the union’s proposals, and they’ve accepted many of ours. At no point were talks stalled. We requested additional bargaining dates in September so we could make greater progress. We are hopeful that we can bridge any remaining gaps and reach an agreement soon that benefits our staff.”