“You Cannot Eat Status:” Brooklyn Museum Employees Demand Higher Wages

On the night of Thursday, September 28, dozens of Brooklyn Museum union employees lined the establishment’s grand entrance, chanting “overworked and underpaid” and “historical artwork, not historical wages.” Guests to the museum’s Open Home, an occasion celebrating the revamped Asian and Islamic artwork galleries, streamed in by way of totally different entrances in an try to avoid the protestors.

Workers on the Brooklyn Museum formally unionized in August 2021 and commenced contract negotiations with museum management in January of this 12 months. Whereas the 2 events have reached tentative agreements on some non-economic points, they’ve but to come back to phrases on healthcare and wages.

The day earlier than their protest, the union introduced that they’d filed an Unfair Labor Practices cost in opposition to the museum with the Nationwide Board of Labor Relations, which oversaw their 2021 election into United Auto Employees (UAW) Native 2110. UAW Native 2110 represents staff at a rating of different different cultural establishments, together with the Whitney, the Dia Artwork Basis, and the New Museum.

“There simply hasn’t been sufficient motion on the a part of the museum to satisfy us the place we’re at,” Liz St. George, an assistant curator within the ornamental arts division who sits on the union’s bargaining committee, advised Hyperallergic throughout the protest. “We really feel on the bargaining committee that we’ve made concessions and we’ve made proposals that the museum is simply not responding to. With this motion, we wish to put somewhat stress on the museum to come back to the desk.”

The union began contract negotiations with museum management in January.
The Brooklyn Museum Union is preventing for increased wage will increase throughout the board.

Among the many union’s calls for are a minimal 7% wage improve (set retroactively to July 1) and 4% raises in each 2023 and 2024. In accordance with UAW, the museum is presently providing a 3% improve, a 1.5% improve in 2023 and 2024, and a one-time adjustment that might be relevant to pick out employees.

A museum spokesperson advised Hyperallergic that though they can not touch upon the specifics of the continued negotiations, the museum has proposed a 9% common wage improve. UAW emphasised that this 9% determine is a median and would depart greater than half of the union’s employees with solely a 3% increase. This improve would fall far beneath the sky-high inflation fee — calculated at 8.3% from August 2021 to August 2022.

“We stay dedicated to partnering with our employees to realize an settlement that advances our commitments to wage fairness,” a Brooklyn Museum spokesperson mentioned in a press release. “The museum lately accepted a FY2023 working price range that dedicates practically $4M in new investments in wage and profit enhancements for all staff,” they added, a results of a “complete wage fairness undertaking.”

Guests to the museum largely bypassed the protesting union employees.
St. George mentioned that lots of the museum’s employees are drawn to the establishment due to its social justice mission.

St. George mentioned that one of many greatest drivers for organizing was the museum’s staggering worker turnover fee. “It’s a continuing revolving door,” she mentioned. “Which is one thing that we’re attempting to remediate.”

Owen O’Brien, a person giving supervisor within the museum’s Improvement division, advised Hyperallergic that top worker turnover, coupled with what he sees as underpayment, led him to hitch the union and take a place on its bargaining committee. O’Brien mentioned that pay is very poor for part-time employees.

Emma Dematteo, a guests service affiliate, is a kind of part-time staff. She’s been on the museum since 2018 when she was employed as a short lived employee, and excluding a quick stint on the Morgan Library, Dematteo has labored on the Brooklyn Museum “virtually [her] total grownup life,” since she was 21.

“I really feel like I’ve grown up right here,” Dematteo mentioned. “It’s the folks right here. I at all times felt actually supported and nourished.” Now, Dematteo solely works on the museum every so often and has taken up a job as a nanny. “It pays the payments,” Dematteo mentioned, including that she is paid $17 an hour on the Brooklyn Museum. The dwelling hourly wage in New York Metropolis, as calculated by the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how, is $25.42.

“Organizing comes from a deep care and keenness for museum work and this establishment specifically,” St. George mentioned, including that many employees are drawn to the Brooklyn Museum for its espoused social justice mission. “That is nearly holding the museum accountable to its lip-service to social justice.”

As employees lined the museum’s entrance, one other group of union members stood subsequent to Jap Parkway close to an NYPD police automotive stationed exterior the protest, waving indicators at automobiles passing by on the busy avenue. Their placards learn “Artwork employees received’t kiss ass” and “You may’t eat status.”

Drivers honked in response and pedestrians stopped to speak with the rallying employees.

“We do that as a result of we love and care concerning the museum,” St. George mentioned. “We care about our work right here and now, but additionally what future folks coming to the museum will encounter.”

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