Open Letter to Museum Management
June 25, 2019
New Museum: Respect Your Unionized Workers
When we voted to form the New Museum Union in January 2019, we came together to collectively improve our conditions, spurred by our commitment to the New Museum’s mission, legacy, and future success. We hoped to have a hand in making the Museum a more equitable institution, as founder Marcia Tucker envisioned it in 1977. We also hoped, despite management’s union-busting efforts in the time leading up to the election—going so far as to hire right-wing anti-union consultants Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan—that the union would soon come to be a commonplace and respected aspect of our work at the Museum.
Unfortunately, since that time, it’s been repeatedly made clear to us that the New Museum Union is still unwelcome at the New Museum. In bargaining, proposals to bring all staff up to a living wage and to improve our healthcare benefits have been called “non-starters” or otherwise disparaged. Right now, the Museum continues to pay its workers many thousands of dollars less than the $51,000 that management told us they consider a living wage in New York City. Employees in Visitor Services make $15.50 an hour—just fifty cents above the minimum wage—and haven’t received a raise in nearly three years. We know the New Museum can do better than this.
Even more disconcertingly, our efforts to secure basic rights for the union have been ignored or rejected outright. We’ve asked for time and meeting space at the Museum for union members to share updates and handle grievances, and for the ability to meet with new staff members to inform them about the union—all common provisions in union contracts—but these proposals were flat-out denied. The museum’s lawyer likened such responsibilities to going fishing—a hobby, rather than an intrinsic part of our jobs as unionized workers. Management refuses to bargain with us at the Museum, effectively separating us from the rest of membership. These are all tactics by which the Museum is trying to distance itself from the union that we, its employees, chose to form.
We unionized. We believe in the union and we’re committed to its longstanding success so that we and our future colleagues can advocate for ourselves as cultural workers. We ask management whether they want to engage in a fight that allies them with a backward, inhumane administration. We ask management to treat us with the dignity and respect we deserve as workers by bargaining with us in good faith and accepting our union as a permanent—and beneficial—part of the Museum. As our colleagues at museums and cultural institutions across the country form unions, we hope the New Museum will set a positive example of how institutions can work together with their unionized staff.
New Museum Union-UAW Local 2110