Guggenheim museum curators decide to join union

For decades there was no union at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, but now its curators, curators, editors and other employees aim to f...


For decades there was no union at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, but now its curators, curators, editors and other employees aim to form the second in just over two years, organizing themselves with a section local linked to the United Auto Workers.

Workers in similar jobs are already part of collective bargaining units at institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Technical, Office and Professional Union, Local 2110, UAW on Friday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking it to allow Guggenheim employees to vote on the union, said Maida Rosenstein, president. from the local.

She said she emailed Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong to let him know the petition was filed.

“We respectfully ask the Museum not to delay the elections or campaign against the free choice of employees to unionize,” the email read in part. “Other institutions remained neutral and did not interfere with the organizing votes.”

In 2019, shortly before art handlers, maintenance mechanics and other Guggenheim employees voted to join Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, officials Unions said Mr. Armstrong sent an e-mail message to museum workers telling them that he believed a union would inject “day-to-day” division into the facility.

The Guggenheim issued a statement on Friday acknowledging receiving the petition to form a new union at the museum and saying it “recognizes the right of its employees to bargain collectively.”

“The Museum will announce the next steps shortly,” the statement read.

Ms Rosenstein said the proposed bargaining unit would represent around 160 professional and non-professional workers, including visitor services employees and some on-call per diem workers, such as museum educators.

Although Guggenheim employees have been discussing for years forming a collective bargaining unit that would represent its professional staff, employees said there was a new outbreak during the pandemic.

“Organizing is becoming more and more common, especially in our field,” said Julie K. Smitka, Associate Digital Producer at Guggenheim who was involved in organizing efforts there. “In many institutions during the pandemic there were leaves and layoffs and I think that turned things around on what a union could do for us.”

Ms. Smitka said several of their colleagues were concerned about job security, pay equity and medicare. Another Guggenheim worker who took part in the union campaign, Rosemary Taylor, said that “racial equity and diversity” and transparency in decision-making were also important issues.

Taylor, a teaching artist who worked on a Guggenheim program that sends artists to public schools, said many employees wanted to learn more about what museum officials were planning and have the chance to express on issues that concern them.

“We want to have a voice,” she said. “We want to improve the jobs we love so that we can keep doing them. “

A wave of organizing that began about two and a half years ago has led employees to form unions at institutions across the country, including the New Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts. from Boston.

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