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After Negotiations, Frieze New York Agrees to Union Labor

by Mostafa Heddaya on April 9, 2014

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Union protest at Frieze New York 2013 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

After two years of protests regarding its use of non-union labor, Frieze New York announced today that it will be employing union workers for the 2014 iteration of the art fair on Randall’s Island. The agreement, publicized today in a joint news release with Teamsters Joint Council 16, marks a significant change of policy for the London-based organization, which for the past two years declined to negotiate with the unions and insisted that it was “not in a labor dispute.”

The unions had gained the support of several New York City Council members, including Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district encompasses Randall’s Island. “It’s not acceptable that a public resource [Randall’s Island] is taken offline for two months, and adding insult to injury. We have the operator of this event basically saying: we don’t want to hire local people, we don’t want to pay benefits,” Mark-Viverito told Hyperallergic last year at a City Hall press conference with the Teamsters ahead of the 2013 fair.

Negotiations between Frieze and the unions have been ongoing since at least late February, with the discussions likely encouraged by artist objections to Frieze’s anti-union policies. At least year’s fair, the artist Andrea Bowers displayed a letter condemning the organization’s labor practices alongside her work at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects’ booth, and a brief kerfuffle followed its accidental removal by overnight security staff.

News of the agreement broke Wednesday on GalleristNY, to whom a gallery that represents Bowers had apparently leaked the story, a source close to the negotiations tells Hyperallergic.

Correction, 4/10: Due to a glitch on the GalleristNY site, an earlier version of this story misstated the day on which their article about Frieze’s union agreement was published.

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