Why We Are Voting UNION YES
By unionizing, we establish the legal right as a group of employees, to collectively bargain for a union contract to cover our terms and conditions of employment. Without a union, management makes all of the decisions about our employment and our role is advisory at best. In organizing, we join thousands of other unionized administrative, technical and professional workers throughout New York City who have also organized. Unsurprisingly, when employees unionize, their jobs generally pay more than non-union jobs and they get better healthcare and other benefits. Unionized staff at the Museum of Modern Art and at other cultural and educational institutions have been able to address their wages, benefits, and rights at the workplace effectively through collective bargaining.
How does the vote work?
- We have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a vote to take place among all non-supervisory staff who are not Security or Maintenance workers. (Note: security guards cannot be in the same union as other workers, although they can organize their own separate union.)
- It is likely that the NLRB will set a date and time for an election within the next few weeks. The election, when scheduled, will take place on the premises of the Museum and will be administered directly by the Labor Board. The New Museum is required to post an official notice from the NLRB about the date, time and specific location for the vote.
- The election is by secret ballot (paper) and you must vote in person. There is no absentee balloting.
- If a majority votes YES, our union will be certified by the NLRB and the New Museum will be legally obligated to bargain in good faith with us for a union contract.
- Our next steps will then be to elect a bargaining committee from among ourselves, survey everyone on their ideas for improvements, and draw up proposals for a legally binding union contract. We will have the assistance and guidance of experienced Local 2110 representatives, who have bargained many union contracts, including at MoMA. Once our union is certified, even before we agree upon a contract, the New Museum cannot make unilateral reductions in our terms and conditions of employment, i.e., try to lower benefits so we have to bargain them back.
Can the New Museum stop this?
Many employers campaign aggressively against unionization and try to discourage staff from voting YES for a union. We asked the New Museum to refrain from such campaigning or interference in our democratic right to choose to unionize but regrettably, the Museum retained Kentucky-based “union avoidance” consultants. It’s not illegal for management to express their opinion, but typically, anti-union consultants use misinformation and distortion to disparage unionization campaigns. And the following actions are illegal. (remember “TIPS”):
- Threaten – it is illegal to threaten, discipline, or discriminate against employees because of their support for a union;
- Interrogate – it is illegal to ask employees about their support for a union or about the support of their peers;
- Promise – it is illegal to promise favors or benefits for a vote for the management instead of a vote for the union;
- Surveil – it is illegal to surveil or spy on union activity. It is also illegal to tell an employee that others have said they are a union supporter.
What is the benefit of collective bargaining?
Currently, New Museum management decides unilaterally on all our terms and conditions of employment: what we will be paid, what our health benefits will be, whether we are eligible for promotion, when we get time off, etc. With a union, the New Museum must bargain in good faith with us over all of these (and more) conditions of our employment, and cannot reduce our benefits without our union’s agreement. (Note: management cannot reduce benefits to retaliate against us for unionizing, or to force us to “bargain back” what we already have or to retaliate against us while we are organizing.)
What are union dues?
There are no dues until after a first contract is negotiated and voted into effect by the majority of the New Museum members. After that, union dues are 2% of your regular wages. (Note: part-time art handlers and crew members pay dues only on earnings from the New Museum.) Union dues pay for the cost of maintaining and supporting a strong union, e.g., legal costs, staffing, equipment, supplies, rent, etc.
Who decides on accepting a contract or going out on strike?
We do. All contract proposals are voted on by the entire membership in the workplace. We elect our own negotiating committee and we vote on whether to accept or reject a contract. Before a strike is even considered, we must vote to authorize it by a two thirds majority.
Can the New Museum “afford” a contract?
Even very small nonprofits (the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the New Press) have unionized staff. Currently, the New Museum decides unilaterally on how to allocate its resources. With a union, we will have the right to ask for validated information about the New Museum’s assets and will have the ability, through our collective bargaining rights, to effectively push for prioritizing the Museum staff.
Why Local 2110 of the UAW?
Local 2110 represents thousands of technical, office and professional workers throughout the New York City area, including the professional and administrative staff of the MoMA, the New-York Historical Society, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Columbia University, New York University, HarperCollins Publishers, the ACLU, and many more. The International UAW is one of the most powerful unions in the country and provides our local union with resources and expertise to assist us in legal issues, organizing, civil rights, legislative action, and health and safety work.
Can I lose my job for joining a union?
NO. It is illegal to retaliate against anyone for forming or joining a union. Thousands of workers in New York City in every occupation, including art museums, have formed, joined, and been active in their unions. Furthermore, with a union, employees have greater job protection because employers must affirmatively demonstrate that they have “just cause” before terminating an employee.
I’m in favor of the union but I’m nervous about what my boss will think. Do I have to tell my boss that I will vote for the union?
Supporting a union is completely legal and normal but it is up to you how open you want to be about your support. Union support cards are not shared with the management of the New Museum, but go only to the NLRB and the union itself. It is illegal for your supervisor or any management of the New Museum to ask if you have signed a union support card, how you plan to vote, or whether you support the union.
What about strikes?
Strikes are a pressure tactic of last resort and most contracts are settled without strikes. The union at MoMA has negotiated many successful contracts without having to strike, by effectively using rallies, leaflet campaigns, social media and other peaceful tactics to win a fair contract. Strikes can only be implemented if the members themselves want to strike. Any strike would require a two thirds majority vote of union members. Moreover, UAW does not penalize workers for not participating in the strike actions.
Response to the Anti-Union Campaign
Who are Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan?
Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan are a labor relations and anti-union services consulting firm, based in Kentucky. The New Museum chose their services in developing the anti-union strategy after our filing of the union petition.
Who is excluded from the union under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)?
The NLRA excludes supervisors from being members of the union, and it defines supervisors as those who use their independent judgement to assign, hire, fire, promote, layoff, discipline, etc. Those who oversee employees who would not be part of our unit (such as interns) or who oversee non-employees of the Museum (such as volunteers or independent contractors), are not supervisors under the Act.
Can I go to a union meeting if management tells me I am a supervisor?
Yes! The New Museum took a position that eleven employees that we believe are eligible to vote are ineligible because they are “supervisors,” even though these staff have no supervisory authority as defined by the National Labor Relations Act. The union is confident that those employees are not supervisors and are eligible to participate in the union election, go to union meetings, organize, support and participate in the unionization campaign. It is illegal to retaliate against anyone—whether supervisory or not—for supporting a union.
What’s the obligation to bargain in “good faith”?
Although “good faith” bargaining will not require the New Museum to agree to any one particular proposal, it will require them to meet with elected union representatives, negotiate with them, offer compromises, and provide necessary and relevant information to assist the bargaining. Through “good faith” collective bargaining, staff at MoMA, the New-York Historical Society, Columbia University, the ACLU and many other Local 2110 workplaces, have achieved substantial improvements in their wages and benefits and have established job rights and security that did not exist in the past.
Will the union insurmountably increase the costs for the New Museum?
Union advocates have never proposed anything but a fair system, and collective bargaining allows us to negotiate with management as equals. The contract will be negotiated by the management and the bargaining committee, which consists of democratically elected members of the unit. Both parties will have to agree on it. Local 2110 has successfully negotiated contracts with much smaller nonprofits than the New Museum. and there is no reason to believe that the New Museum will not be able to accommodate our bargaining goals if they choose to prioritize their workers. Currently, the New Museum pays its executive echelon higher salaries than executives of comparably-sized institutions.
Will the union interfere with my workload/work schedule/artistic mission of the Museum?
The union’s mission is to create a better workplace for the New Museum staff. Moreover, it is up to us to decide what we all want to see in the contract. Collective bargaining is highly nuanced and participatory, and it is up to us, the New Museum staff, to decide which provisions we would like to see in it. For example, in many Local 2110 contracts, members have successfully negotiated for contract provisions that guarantee rights for more flexible hours and schedules.
Will the union prevent my supervisor from giving me a merit raise or create inflexible work rules?
No. The union contract comes into effect only after it is ratified by the members of the unit. It is up to us to decide what we want the contract to cover. It is very common to develop an agreement that can successfully accommodate employees with varying interests. This hasn’t occurred at other workplaces which have organized with Local 2110. Without a union, however, management can make unilateral changes in work rules, hours, pay or any working condition.
How can a union contract accommodate so many different interests?
It is extremely common for a union contract to cover a variety of job titles across departments within an institution. For example, at MoMA, Local 2110 represents workers in the store, visitor services, curatorial and administrative staff. Together, they have been successfully negotiating union contracts for decades, including provisions for wage increases, stronger benefits and workplace protections.
Will there be a salary freeze because of the union contract?
No. All the provisions of the contract are decided collectively and negotiated by the bargaining committee elected by and from the unit. Moreover, it is standard to include annual salary increases and pay grades that take into account seniority. Such provisions not only make employers more competitive, but also help prevent high turnover in workforce. In addition, an increase in wages and benefits of unionized employees is typically reflected in those of supervisors and managers.