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New Museum Staffers Vote to Unionize

After announcing their plans to organize a union earlier this month, this afternoon, the New Museum union received 38 yes votes against 8 no votes.

New Museum staffers in the museum lobby on January 11 to promote their proposed union (image courtesy of Dana Kopel)

Today, January 24, employees of the New Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side voted to join Local 2110 UAW as the NewMuU-UAW Local 2110 union. Local 2110 is also responsible for union branches at the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New-York Historical Society.

ARTnews reports that the election results were 38 yes votes against 8 no votes, with over 10 votes left unopened, as they were reportedly challenged by the museum. In a phone interview with Hyperallergic earlier this month, museum employee and union advocate Dana Kopel told Hyperallergic that certain union-supporters had been “falsely classified as supervisors to weaken support for the union” and disallow them from operating as official union members.

In a statement sent to Hyperallergic this afternoon, the New Museum said: “The eligible employees considered the pros and cons of unionization and decided in favor of a union. We respect their decision, and will move forward in good faith.”

Initially, reports circulated that the museum was working with Kentucky-based consulting firm Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan, which advertises its “union avoidance” services, to head what the organizers call “a harsh union-busting campaign.” However, last week, ARTnews reported that the museum had “concluded” its relationship with the firm, adding, “We respect our employees’ right to self-organize and will respect whatever decision they make. We will continue to work together to advance the museum’s special mission.”

On January 11, Maida Rosenstein, president of the Local 2110 UAW, told Hyperallergic that her hope for the New Museum is that, “Instead of seeing [a union] as a threat, they will see it as an opportunity to collaborate and work toward a much stronger, sustainable institution that has staff that are committed to the institution and have a commitment to staying there, and an administration that has the ability to have dialogue [with workers].”

The organizers say their goal is a return to the aims of the New Museum’s late founder Marcia Tucker, who hoped to work toward “a collaborative, self-critical, and ‘transparent’ organizational model.”

Athena Christa Holbrook, a MoMA union member who works as a Collection Specialist in the Department of Media & Performance, told Hyperallergic in an email on January 12, “My advice to New Museum employees as they begin the process of unionizing would be to support each other through the inevitable exhaustion and frustration that come from protracted negotiations and keep the common goal you’re striving towards in sight. I think good communication with each other goes a long way in keeping morale boosted and is critical in the face of anti-union rhetoric which an institution may use to divide the unit. Stay together and stay strong!”

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