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Museum of Modern Art Union Workers Stage Walkout as They Prepare for Contract Negotiations

As workers at one of the world’s most prestigious museums prepare for contract negotiations this week, dozens of workers participated in a museum-wide walkout.

Dozens of protesters gather in the atrium of the museum (all images courtesy of UAW Local 2110)

Dozens of protesters converged in the lobby of New York’s Museum of Modern Art this afternoon in preparation for tomorrow’s negotiations over union contract renegotiations. UAW Local 2110 members from across departments — curators, librarians, accountants, visitor service attendants, and stewards — participated in the museum-wide walkout, moving through the atrium to form a picket line at the museum entrance.

Union members and supporters gathered, brandishing signs reading #WeAreMoMA and #MoMASolidarity. Participants wore t-shirts in the recognizable “UAW blue” that read in bold “LOCAL 2110 UAW/WE DESERVE A FAIR CONTRACT” and congregated to sing the well-known union anthem “Solidarity Forever.”

UAW Local 2110 represents over 250 MoMA workers, whose contract expired on May 20 and has not yet been renegotiated due to disagreements on its exact conditions.

Maida Rosenstein, president of the Local 2110, told Hyperallergic that MoMA is balking on previous negotiations and hoping to quell requests to raise salaries for museum workers. As of 2013, MoMA director Glenn Lowry received a $2.1 million annual salary, which is 1% of the museum’s total operating budget.

Protesters form a picket line outside the Museum of Modern Art

Rosenstein says MoMA workers have been unionized with the UAW since the 1970s, citing a “lack of regulations” that allows for persisting low salaries.

Rosenstein told Hyperallergic that “the struggle for a contract with MoMA is right within the context of low levels of unionization among workers in the art world and among white-collar workers in general.”

She adds, “There can be a real change in the dynamic if more workers in cultural institutions were unionized.”

The 2110 president says the museum is “keeping pace” with other large institutions who are also habitually paying out low salaries for employees across departments. She encourages museum workers across institutions to organize into unions to challenge and simultaneously affect the status quo of museum workers’ rights.

Local 2110 President, Maida Rosenstein, addresses the crowd of union members and supporters

Rosenstein cites art workers as “largely underpaid and undervalued,” saying, “I think art workers need to organize, they need to have unions … The more employees that join together in unionization, the more powerful.”

Today’s action follows a recent protest on June 1, organized by MoMA workers aligned with UAW to draw attention toward their calls for secure wages, health care, and job stability from the museum. The last negotiation between union members and the museum occurred in 2015, which proceeded similar protests.

The Museum of Modern Art responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment with the following statement:

We continue to make progress with Local 2110 at the bargaining table. It’s been a productive process and we’re confident we’ll arrive at an amicable resolution, as we have during prior negotiations with Local 2110 and our four other unions. MoMA’s extraordinary staff are the best in the world and we are committed to reaching a contract with Local 2110 reflecting that.

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