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BREAKING: Sotheby’s Hiring Crozier Fine Arts to Cross Picket Line? Teamsters Fighting Back

by Hrag Vartanian on September 29, 2011

Photo of the Teamster Local 814 art handlers who were locked out of Sotheby's during their protest on August 28. (photo by Liza Eliano for Hyperallergic)

Teamsters representatives have been circulating a letter to Chelsea galleries indicating that they will be protesting jobs by Crozier Fine Arts, who they say have crossed their picket line by partly replacing their workers at Sotheby’s.

Teamster Local 814 president Jason Ides told Hyperallergic over the phone that they plan to use their symbolic inflatable rat or fat cat when targeting Crozier and handbilling, which, Ides says, “is a good way to inform the public about what’s going on.”

“We found out there are ten guys in Sotheby’s doing some of the work our guys did. We think they still have temporary guys too,” Ides said.

“When you think of the art industry in New York, which is doing reasonably well, we are trying to make a point about how to treat people in the art industry, not just Sotheby’s, but anyone in the art industry,” he added.

The text of the letter is as follows:

On July 29th, Sotheby’s Auction House locked out its crew of over forty art handlers represented by Teamsters Local 814. For the past eight weeks, the art handlers have been picketing and handbilling outside of Sotheby’s to raise public awareness about their struggle to defend jobs.

Recently, the Union has been informed that Sotheby’s has recently hired a number of employees from Crozier Fine Arts to temporarily replace the locked out workers.  The Union is very disappointed to learn that an art handling company such as Crozier would choose to help Sotheby’s undermine the respect and dignity we believe that the profession of art handling should receive.

As a consequence, the Union will be handbilling with the inflatable rat in front of jobs performed by Crozier to inform the public about the situation. Out of respect for the profession of art handling, we ask you to please contact Bob Crozier at212-741-2024 and ask him to stop providing replacement workers to Sotheby’s.

Sincerely,

Jason Ide
President
Teamsters Local 814

We’ve reached out to Crozier, which has not yet returned our calls for comment.

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  • Anonymous

    If those people working through crozier are artists (and I guarantee many of them are), then sorry, I support them working at Sotheby’s.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      You realize undercutting each other is the worst thing you can possibly do and doesn’t ensure any kind of justice. I’ve heard through other that Crozier is known not to treat their employees well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Mcallister/1828583551 Thomas Mcallister

      call bob @ 1212 741 2024 tell him he is destroying good jobs, occupy crozier

  • Aaron Zimmerman

    Bob Crozier and his goons are some of the most unscrupulous business people I ever had the displeasure of working for. They regularly exploit young artists desperate for work by bringing them in inexperienced and naive, working them for next to nothing and firing them when they inevitably fuck up. On top of this they charge their clientele top dollar for blue chip service provided by these unfortunate and inexperienced people. It’s really sad. When I was there I was regularly put into the impossible position of having to deal with situations like the one these workers have to deal with at Sotheby’s. Being yelled at by clientele for things management did that I had no control over became routine. If you are a young art handler/artist avoid Crozier!

    • Anonymous

      It sounds like a real bad deal with Crozier then.  If they are being treated like this and without even fair compensation, they should be out on the street with the Teamsters. 

    • dm simons

      Word, Aaron, 
      Crozier never treated their workers well, it starts at the top, I know for a fact they are under financial distress, in fact it is rumored that they did not pay about six months of payroll tax in 2010, which is illegal. In late 2009 they started to lay workers off, then hire them back as freelancers so they wouldn’t have to give then benefits and after three months lay them off and bring in new hires. They charge clients more than any other company. I think the Teamsters should picket Crozier at their offices, and try to unionize its workers. Bring out the RAT! 

  • William Powhida

    Hayward G, 

    This is unfortunately the same mentality that keeps artists at the bottom of the food chain in the art world, with the exception of our well-fed, celebrity stars (don’t look at me, I’m hated).  When artists simply climb over someone standing on principle, ie the right to get paid fairly for their labor or work, then the auction houses and galleries win and can do whatever they want. You may have missed Priska Juschka getting sued by an artist and now collectors, for non-payment and non-delivery of works.  That’s a ponzi scheme that works because there is always another artist ready to subsidize their own big, Chelsea exhibition.  
    Just because there is an opportunity at Soethby’s to make short-term money, doesn’t mean artists should fuck over the people – unionized art handlers, who are trying maintain real wages, job security, and benefits in a luxury industry.  Be real, this is Sotheby’s, not a non-profit.  I’ve heard horror stories of careless collectors asking for piano sized work carried up town house stairwells, and I’ve had a lot of friends who are and have been art handlers, even at Crozier, who know the ups and downs of the work.  Some of those downs carried them right the fuck out of art entirely, it’s that kind of toxic environment for some artists.  

    So, suggesting that artists in particular -who should know better what kind of work art handling involves, dealing with urwealth that barely recognizes the laborer’s humanity, sitting in trucks at airports for hours waiting for crates to clear customs, hauling horrible art up flights of stairs, and living as the ‘help’ on country estates with the lords – should profit off an opportunity to make some quick cash is the kind of thinking that has led to the Occupy Wall Street protests.  If you want any kind of real, lasting opportunity for artists to earn some money outside of handling the crates of the few, you might want to re-think what it means to be a fucking scab, a temporary replacement that could become a permanent at lower wages, with less security, and fewer, if any benefits.  That’s not a long term answer.  That’s Crozier making more profit, and workers making much less, while displacing people who don’t need an MFA to work hard.  This is bad for labor and bad for art, and your statement comes at time that suggests you’re a short-term thinker.  Good luck with that, it’s worked out fantastically for the global economy.  

  • Anonymous

    we are happy to see this discussion is even being had in the first place.  thank you!  and artists and workers should stand in solidarity with each other, because if we don’t, we are all going down together anyway!

  • nyc artgirl

    I don’t know if Crozier has changed but when I was there as a receptionist four years ago. I got full benefits and health insurance and a $30K salary, which I know by experience is higher than the norm for entry level art world positions – I’ve been offered as little as $8/h for a research position. By the way, that’s not Bob Crozier’s number, that’s the main line. I wish I could remember what his extension is. 

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