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New York MoMA Employees Plan Garden Party Protest

Guests arriving at the Museum of Modern Art in New York tonight in order to celebrate the storied institution and honoree Agnes Gund at its annual gala fundraiser, dubbed “Party in the Garden,” will also have the chance to hear the grievances of MoMA’s staff. Museum employees are inviting guests to join them in solidarity at a demonstration outside of MoMA’s home on West Fifty-Third Street.

Dubbed “Party in the Pavement,” the event was planned in protest of proposed changes to the staffers’ contracts with the museum. The employee union, MoMA Local 2110, has been in negotiations with the institution since April, but it seems as if they have come to a standstill. The various issues that employees are attempting to draw attention to range from health care to overtime and job security.

A post on the union’s Instagram account reads: “If you love MoMA and modern art, if you care about labor and social justice, or if you just want to spend an hour or two fighting for something good with an amazing bunch of people, please join us in getting the message to MoMA—it’s gonna be fabulous, feisty, family-friendly, and fun AF. Going to the Party in the Garden dinner or after-party? No problem! Hang out with us first, and then in you go.”

Maida Rosenstein, the president of UAW Local 2110, told Artnews that members are upset about the museum’s hiring of temporary nonunion workers; its elimination of a program that guarantees staffers raises after a specified amount of time; out-of-pocket health care costs, which have drastically increased since the last contract agreement in 2015; and the lack of overtime pay at a moment when employees are working long hours while the museum attempts to finish an expansion project that will add 50,000 square feet of exhibition space by 2019.

“They get away with this stuff because they expect people to work for the prestige of working at MoMA,” Rosenstein said. “It’s very frustrating when everybody has worked so hard with perennial understaffing to come to the bargaining table and have the museum lowball people.”

For many, the slow-moving negotiations amid a major expansion echo the events leading up to the workers’ strike in 2000, which lasted 134 days. Commenting on the employee dissatisfaction, the museum said: “MoMA’s extraordinary staff are the best in the world. We are committed to working with the Local 2110 to reach an agreement that will keep our community of dedicated staff and the museum on a path of financial stability and future growth.”