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UOVO workers. Photo: Teamsters.
UOVO workers. Photo: Teamsters.

UOVO Workers Vote Against Joining Union

At an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board today, employees of UOVO, a New York fine arts storage company that also provides services such as transportation and collection management to artists, collectors, and arts institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rubin Museum, voted against joining Teamsters Local 814, New York’s union for professional movers.

“We are pleased with the outcome, which will allow us to retain the flexible, merit-based culture of open communication for which we have always been known,” UOVO marketing and communications director Anne Maso told Artforum in a statement. “We thank everyone who helped shed light on the realities of third-party representation.”

A group of UOVO workers announced their intent to organize a union in September. Among the issues they intended to address on the bargaining table were job security, health care, retirement plans, and other benefits. At the time, employees claimed that management attempted to dissuade them from organizing.

“UOVO’s management has been hostile to the idea of sharing power legally with their workers,” Julian Tysh, a labor organizer with Teamsters, told Hyperallergic at a rally in support of the unionization efforts held outside the company’s Long Island City headquarters on Wednesday. “They’ve hired the infamous anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, and they probably spent something in the ballpark of $400,000 on a campaign to misinform, intimidate, and get workers to vote against their own interest of having more legal rights.”

Brooklyn state senator Julia Salazar—who represents Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, where UOVO will open a fourth warehouse with nearly $17 million in financial assistance from the city—was also present at yesterday’s rally. Salazar, along with city council speaker Corey Johnson and city council members Keith Powers, Antonio Reynoso, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Ben Kallos, sent a letter to UOVO chairman Steve Guttman last week threatening to pull the public funding from the company if it doesn’t “immediately cease and desist [its] campaign of intimidation and misinformation against employees.”

In response to the October 23 rally, a spokesperson for UOVO said: “Rallies of this kind—including the presence of politicians and professional union organizers—are a standard campaign tactic for labor unions, and to be expected prior to a representation election. It is their decision whether or not they wish to bring in third-party representation, and we will continue defending their rights under federal law to make an informed choice as part of a free and fair election.”