New Museum Union

Letter: New Museum Delegates, Bargaining Committee, and Members Sign Letter to the California Association of Museums

March 5, 2020


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To Celeste DeWald, Executive Director, California Association of Museums,

When we saw that this year’s CAM Conference includes a session called “Museums and Labor Unions,” we were excited that this statewide coalition of museum administrators and executives would participate in the ongoing national discussion about labor in cultural institutions. We were hopeful that the session on museum unions—alongside panels discussing topics like “Decolonizing Initiatives” and “Reaching Underrepresented Communities”—would provide a thoughtful, critical platform for an important issue facing museums nationwide.

We welcome balance and nuance in any discussion of labor in museums. However, upon scrutiny of the program description, we’re concerned about the framing and intentions of this session, which provides a platform for union-busting and thus legitimizes this practice within museums. Jeffrey A. Berman, the lawyer slated to speak in the session, comes from Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a law firm with a virulently anti-worker track record dating back decades. In the 1970s, Seyfarth represented the interests of California’s growers in their campaign against Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers; they also represented the city of Normal, IL, during a forty-day firefighters strike. More recently, in 2018, Seyfarth attorneys defended the Weinstein Company against a suit alleging the Company’s complicity in covering up Weinstein’s pattern of criminal sexual misconduct.

We are deeply concerned that this session will present a biased perspective on labor unions in museums—one that is hostile to the rights of museum workers in California and beyond. In the last year, museum workers have unionized in unprecedented numbers. Just around the corner from the site of this year’s conference, workers at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art will soon begin negotiating a union contract that they hope will make the museum a more equitable, sustainable institution. Meanwhile, 70 former employees from the Marciano Art Foundation are still reeling from the mass layoffs caused by the heartless anti-worker sentiments espoused by firms like Seyfarth.

Some of the reasons workers like us have unionized are evidenced by the diverse range of panel topics on your conference program. While we welcome critical reflection on the opportunities and challenges of collective organizing in the workplace, a nonprofit conference is no place for union-busting. We’d welcome your clarification of the purpose of the panel and the intent behind including a representative of a notorious anti-union law firm on it.

Sincerely,

Francesca Altamura, Delegate, New Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Raul Arzate, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Marina Bardash Nebro, Tenement Museum, Local 2110 UAW
Lily Bartle, New Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Kelsey Brow, NYC Emerging Museum Professionals Queens Borough Chair
Maureen Catbagan, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Union, Local 1503 DC 37
Danika Cauthen-Wright, MAF Union
Kaitlyn Chandler, BAM Negotiating Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Heather Clark, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Ian Cofre, Director, PS122 Gallery
Bryan Cook, Guggenheim Union Bargaining Committee, IUOE Local 30
Nicole Daniels, Tenement Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Marie Danielsson-Yung, MAF Union
Brittney DeVeau, New Children’s Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Ivy Doby, MAF Union
John Edens, Frye Art Museum, Art Workers Union
Megan Elevado, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Brenda Escobar, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
R.E. Fulton, Tenement Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Nina Gibson, MAF Union
Lily Goldberg, Steward, MoMA Union, Local 2110 UAW
Madeline Gonzalez, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Gabe Gordon, New Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Jill Grant, New Children’s Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Holly Harmon, Delegate, New Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Eric Heist, Guggenheim Union and MoMA PS1 Union, IUOE Local 30
Athena Christa Holbrook, Steward, MoMA Union, Local 2110 UAW
Helena Hsieh, MAF Union
Jon Huron, New Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Izzy Johnson, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Stephen Kelley, Frye Art Museum, Art Workers Union
Lauren Kelly, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Samantha Keogh, Tenement Museum Union Organizing Committee
Janet Koenig, artist, NYC
Dana Kopel, Unit Chair, New Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Lucas Lacámara, MAF Union
Kit Lamb, MOCA Union Organizing Committee, MAF Union
Nora Landes, New Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Caitlin Lee, Frye Art Museum, Art Workers Union
Janet Lee, Steward of Arts and Culture, MOCA Union
John Junghun Lee, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Olivia Leiter, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Ryan Lentini, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Judith Leroy, MOCA Union, MAF Union
Maria Lewis, MOCA Union
Spencer Longo, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Cody Machado, New Children's Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Clarinda Mac Low, Director, Culture Push, Inc.
Liz Mahan, New Museum Union Bargaining Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Maria Marchenkova, Steward, MoMA Union, Local 2110 UAW
Jeszi McPeak, New Children's Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Alisa Miller, New Children's Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Hannah Mykel, New Children's Museum Bargaining Committee, IBEW 465
Eli Petzold, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Lara Saikali, MAF Union
Christine Samples, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Emily Searles, BAM Negotiating Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Helene Seifer, MAF Union
Joshua Smith, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Janet Solval, MAF Union
Gabrielle Spear, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Ana Torok, Steward, MoMA Union, Local 2110 UAW
Johnny Tran, MAF Union
Chris Tyler, BAM Organizing Committee, Local 2110 UAW
Daniel Walber, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
April Wen, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW
Ace Ubas, MOCA Union Organizing Committee
Chinelo Ufondu, MAF Union Organizing Committee
Dajin Yoon, MAF Union
Camden Zyler, Tenement Museum Union, Local 2110 UAW\
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Unorganized museum workers of California