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Unionized staff rally in front of the Brooklyn Museum on September 28. Photo: Brooklyn Museum Union.
Unionized staff rally in front of the Brooklyn Museum on September 28. Photo: Brooklyn Museum Union.

Unionized Brooklyn Museum Workers Rally in Support of a Fair Contract

Unionized staff of the Brooklyn Museum on September 28 staged a two-hour rally in front of the institution in an effort to bring awareness to their demands for a fair contract from museum management. The workers, who assembled across the plaza that sits in front of the museum’s main entrance, timed their gathering to coincide with an evening open house celebrating the opening of the institution’s freshly restored Islamic and Asian art galleries. According to The Art Newspaper, many visitors swerved to avoid engaging the demonstrators as they entered the museum.

“We’re rallying, hoping to bring to the public’s attention and museum visitors obviously and participants in the open house, that the museum is not making a fair offer to the union on behalf of its staff,” Maida Rosenstein told the publication. Rosenstein is charged with organizing initial contracts for UAW Local 2110, which represents staff at the Brooklyn Museum and a number of other New York arts institutions. “People are really severely underpaid at the Brooklyn Museum,” she continued, “and the museum is just refusing to address that in negotiations. Although, the reason why people organized was to improve their conditions.”

The museum union on September 27 revealed on that it had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB), averring that that museum management has employed unfair negotiation strategies. The union has been bargaining for an initial contract since January, five months after its formation, and members feel they have not yet been offered a fair deal. “Particularly we are far apart on the issues of wages and health benefits and feel management is undervaluing our contributions to the museum,” said assistant curator Elizabeth St. George, a member of the bargaining committee. “We are taking part in this action tonight out of deep love and commitment to the museum, as well as its mission for social justice. We want to build a culture and community where the brilliant creativity and hard work of the staff is matched with fair labor practices and compensation.”

While the union has not yet called for a strike, its efforts have drawn comparison to those of the unionized workers of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who also filed a complaint with the NLRB and warned of—and then staged—a one-day strike in an attempt to get their grievances addressed. PMA workers went on strike September 26 after their less drastic measures failed to garner them a serious contract offer.