Members of MoMA UAW Local 2110 during their walkout at the museum on August 6 (photo courtesy UAW Local 2110)

Contract negotiations between the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and staff members in the Local 2110 UAW have come to a resolution after 122 days of bargaining. Organizers submitted votes to approve the final contract yesterday, August 16. The parties settled on a five-year contract, ratified by a 96% margin, in which employee health benefits, salary raises, and chances for upward mobility in the MoMA ranks were put forth.

Local 2110 is a chapter of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), organizing for union rights across New York City. MoMA Local 2110 members have been challenging the museum for months, picketing outside the MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden fundraiser, and staging a walk out on August 6 in the museum lobby.

All employees will receive raises of 3% or $1,600, depending on which amount is greater, with the lowest-paid 25% of workers receiving 4% greater additional income or higher. All employees will receive 3% increases in the second and third years of their contracts, with 3.5% increases in 2021 and 2022.

Athena Christa, an engaged member of the MoMA Local 2110’s bargaining committee, told Hyperallergic in an email:

“Arts workers are often expected to make personal and financial sacrifices for the honor of working in a prestigious arts institution. It’s true that we are privileged to have the opportunity to do work we are passionate about, but that often comes with a price paid in under-compensated (and sometimes uncompensated) labor. Furthermore, this culture of “passion-as-payment” erects barriers for so many people who aren’t able to accept low wages or take unpaid internships in order to get their foot in the door, and this perpetuates the exclusion and lack of diversity that is so pervasive throughout the art world … Building the collective power of art workers through unionization strengthens our ability to set higher standards for wages, benefits, and job rights, conditions which I think lead will to a more inclusive and diverse art world.”

MoMA staff will retain their single coverage health benefits without employee contributions, and employees utilizing family coverage will not see an increase in their contributions as a result of their new raises.

“Containing our out of pocket health care costs is a primary issue for the union membership because we’ve been seeing our wage increases eroded by the rising cost of health care,” associate registrar Carla Caputo said in the group’s official press release.

The museum initially fought against seniority step raises, but the union fought for its inclusion and eventually won. Employees will also see improvements in paid family leave, tuition benefits, and commissions and sales bonuses.

These recent agreements come after a long-fought pushback from the museum on a number of terms. In addition to conceding with the union on eliminating seniority step raises, MoMA withdrew their proposal to extend the period of time they can use a temporary worker without offering benefits.

Local 2110 representatives now have contractual assurance that they will be given the opportunity to meet with new employees during their orientations, to offer information about the union contract and workers’ rights.

The union is continuing to work towards increased benefits and promotion opportunities for curatorial assistants. The union will soon present their case to a neutral arbitrator for a decision.

Chelsey Swilik, a MoMA employee and active Local 2110 organizer, told Hyperallergic:

“In my six years at MoMA, I definitely have become more aware of the rights and protections I have as a member of Local 2110. Within that realization, it also became apparent to me how many outside arts institutions don’t have access to these same benefits … In the most recent round of negotiations, we had the opportunity to meet with our members regularly to talk about these issues. It definitely fostered dialog that I hope will engender a more critical approach to looking at workers’ rights, specifically within the art world.”

Hear more from MoMA UAW Local 2110 organizers at the MoMA in last week’s Hyperallergic’s podcast, “Art Movements.”

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🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 #Repost @wetted_ashes with @get_repost ・・・ I am thrilled to share that this week @momalocal2110 bargaining committee reached an agreement on a new union contract with MoMA! It’s been a grueling 4.5 months of negotiations, but I am so proud of our members for staying strong & not giving in until we got a fair contract ✊ . I am so moved & inspired by the dedicated & spirited activism of our members, & the overwhelming support from the public. This process has shown me the true power of collective action & how critical it is to continue organizing art workers & fighting to keep our unions strong 💪 . I’m honored to have served on the bargaining committee with this incredible team ❤️ Looking forward to continue organizing with my colleagues as we work to keep our union strong and unified! 💪 Photo: Rebecca Roberts

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Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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