MoMA’s Merciless Provide to Unionized Staff Through the Pandemic

In spring of 2020, when COVID-19 overwhelmed New York and shuttered its artwork museums and galleries, management on the Museum of Trendy Artwork (MoMA) introduced a few of its unionized employees with a proposal they couldn’t refuse: Hand over wage raises within the subsequent two years and, in return, you’ll not be laid off or terminated.

Frightened of shedding their jobs whereas seeing friends at different museums getting let go within the hundreds, the employees of a minimum of one in every of MoMA’s 4 labor unions, Native 30 of the Worldwide Union of Working Engineers, agreed.

Native 30 represents about 60 artwork handlers, engineers, preparators, carpenters, and upkeep employees at MoMA. A month and a half into negotiating a brand new contract with the museum (their contract expired in early August), the employees are actually saying that management isn’t returning the favor, providing them scant wage raises that don’t match what that they had to surrender or replicate the spike in inflation and residing prices within the metropolis.

A protest poster offered by the Native 30 union reads: “Change is Trendy. Change Requires Labor.”

“When the museum requested us to surrender contractually agreed upon wage will increase for 2020 and 2021, we agreed so as to save jobs and the museum,” Rachel Abrams, a MoMA preparator who labored on the museum for greater than 18 years, informed Hyperallergic in an interview. “This sacrifice was made to assist MoMA in a time of want and uncertainty. We are actually merely asking for respectful compensation for the monetary, bodily, and emotional sacrifices we now have made for MoMA.”

To ship this message, the union parked a protest truck in entrance of MoMA yesterday, September 28, clad with digital screens that displayed informational slides concerning the museum’s excessive earnings and ample endowment (round $1 billion as of June 2021, based on public filings) along with messages like “It’s time to assist employees who supported the museum” and “We sacrificed whereas administration is stashing away hundreds of thousands.”

MoMA has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for remark.

The wage will increase that the employees relinquished had been 3% in 2020 and three.25% in 2021. Now, their aim is to a minimum of recoup these misplaced raises, however they are saying they’ve been going through an unsympathetic administration. The union’s opening proposal was a 12% wage enhance for each employee within the first 12 months, whereas the museum’s proposal stands at round 3%, based on Robert Wilson, a consultant of Native 30.

“We didn’t anticipate to get 12% however that was our start line as a result of if we agree to six.25% within the first 12 months, that will be taking zero this 12 months because it solely will get us to the place we must always have already been.”

Wilson added that the museum “took benefit” of the pandemic and misled the employees by making them consider that their solely alternative was giving up their wage will increase or doubtlessly shedding their jobs.

MoMA employees subsequent to  Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece “The Starry Evening” (1889)

“Most of our members labored the museum through the lockdown as a result of they had been wanted for a big renovation and for later making ready for the museum to reopen, so the argument that the museum would’ve needed to lay them off was disingenuous,” he stated.

Abrams confirmed that Native 30 engineers had been on website all through the complete lockdown of 2020 to “guarantee the security and safety of MoMA’s priceless assortment.”

Mark Warhall, an artwork handler who has additionally labored on the museum for greater than 18 years, stated: “I really like my job however am discovering it more and more difficult to reside in NYC given the 2 12 months’s price of raises we sacrificed initially of the pandemic, in addition to inflationary pressures for hire, meals, and so forth.”

He continued, “It’s very discouraging while you pour each effort right into a job that requires a excessive quantity of ability, expertise, bodily labor, and persistence to listen to the price of residing will increase being provided at this level within the Native 30 negotiations with MoMA.”

Negotiations between the museum and the union will resume in a few week. Within the meantime, the employees are utilizing protest and outreach to the media to place stress on administration to maneuver nearer to their calls for. “MoMA thrives off the labor of each one in every of us, it’s time for our negotiations to replicate our dedication to creating MoMA an internationally famend vacation spot for artwork,” Abrams stated.

Wilson concluded: “These employees have ability units that take years to develop; these are the folks that deal with probably the most invaluable belongings that MoMA has, of their most weak types. They’re anticipating a bit bit extra respect.”

Leave a Comment