On Monday evening, employees of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) who are members of the United Autoworkers Local 2110 voted to approve a new three-year contract that was offered by the museum’s administration on Friday. The new contract was ratified by 95% of the roughly 280 MoMA employees who are members of Local 2110, a member of the negotiating committee told Hyperallergic.
Local 2110’s negotiations with the museum, which began in May, took a very public turn on June 2 when employees staged a protest outside the annual Party in the Garden fundraising gala, brandishing placards that read “Modern Art, Ancient Wages” and “MoMA, Don’t Cut Our Health Care.” Ensuing negotiation sessions between the museum and its union workers remained deadlocked as employees refused to accept reduced healthcare coverage, smaller raises, and other cuts. In the meantime, the workers took to Instagram to call attention to their plight.
On Thursday, before the union and museum administration met for their tenth contract negotiation session, some 100 members of Local 2110 presented MoMA director Glenn Lowry with an open letter demanding that the museum not cut its workers’ benefits. Friday’s negotiation session — which took place at the 11th hour, with the workers’ contract due to expire on June 20 — resulted in MoMA offering a new contract that Local 2110’s negotiating committee felt it could present to its members for a vote.
Many feared that if a viable contract wasn’t put forth on Friday, the next course of action for Local 2110 would be to strike. The union’s last two contract renegotiations, in 2010 and 2005, had gone smoothly, but in 2000 talks between MoMA and the workers collapsed and members of Local 2110 went on strike for over four months. This year’s negotiations have been watched closely by MoMA’s non-union workers, many of whom ultimately receive the same benefits as the unionized employees.
On Tuesday MoMA’s Local 2110 members posted the following message on a Change.org petition they had launched to garner support for their cause:
We are pleased to announce that, due in no small part to your vocal and crucial support, an agreement has been reached between management and staff at The Museum of Modern Art.
Late yesterday the professional and administrative staff of The Museum of Modern Art, members of Local 2110 UAW, voted overwhelmingly to approve a new three-year contract with the Museum. The contract calls for employees to receive raises of between 3 and (for the lowest-paid staff) 10.4% in the first year, with about half the membership receiving at least 5%. All employees will receive additional 3% increases in 2016 and 2017. The new contract will preserve 100% paid health coverage for all employees with single coverage, and will reduce the cost of family coverage for most employees. In addition, the Museum agreed to withdraw its demand for in-network mandatory deductibles and reduced its demand for employee contributions toward hospitalization costs. The new contract will also improve child care and tuition benefits for employees and provide needed promotions and bonuses to employees in Visitors Services and Retail.
In the last hours, the Museum altered its negotiating positions substantially, particularly on health care benefits. We attribute this in part to the overwhelming support we received from friends and supporters like you outside the Museum. We thank you for joining our campaign and fighting with us. We could not have done it alone. Finally, we know that many of our counterparts in museums are not unionized and have no voice in their employment conditions. We are happy to speak with anyone who wants more information about organizing a museum union.