Guggenheim Museum curators move to join a consortium

For decades Solomon R. The Guggenheim Museum had no union, but now its curators, patrons, editors and other staff are aiming to create a second one in just two years, organizing with a local affiliated with the United Auto Workers.

Employees working in similar jobs are already part of collective bargaining units at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

On Friday, the technical, office and business union, Local 2110, UAW, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, asking local president Maida Rosenstein to authorize a vote by Guggenheim employees on the union.

She said she had sent an email message to Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong informing her that the petition had been filed.

“We respectfully ask the museum not to delay the election or campaign against the free choice of employees,” the email said in part. “Other institutions have remained neutral and have not interfered with federalization votes.”

In 2019, shortly before art operators, maintenance mechanics and other Guggenheim employees voted to join the International Union of Operating Engineers’ Local 30, union officials said that Mr Armstrong sent an email message to museum staff which stated that he believed a union would inject division. on a daily basis” in the institution.

On Friday, the Guggenheim issued a statement acknowledging that it had received a petition to form a new union at the museum, saying it “recognizes the right of its employees to enter into collective bargaining.”

“The museum will soon announce the next steps,” the statement said.

Ms Rosenstein said the proposed bargaining unit would represent about 160 professional and non-professional workers, including visitor service workers and some on-call per diem workers, such as museum teachers.

Although discussions had been going on among Guggenheim employees for years about creating a collective bargaining unit that would represent its professional workforce, employees said there was a new push during the pandemic.

A digital associate producer at the Guggenheim, Julie K. “Federalization is becoming more and more common, especially in our region,” Smitka said. “During the pandemic there were furloughs and layoffs at a lot of institutions and I think gears changed about what a union can do for us.”

Ms Smitka said many of her colleagues were concerned with job security, wage equity and health insurance. Rosemary Taylor, another Guggenheim activist who participated in the union drive, said that “racial equality and diversity” and transparency in decision-making were also important issues.

Taylor, a teaching artist who worked in a Guggenheim program that sends artists to public schools, said many staff want to know more about what museum officials are planning and inform them about those matters. I get a chance to speak in those who impress them.

“We want to have a voice,” she said. “We want to create the jobs we like better so that we keep doing them.”

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

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