Members of the New Museum Union in New York have threatened to strike after months of fruitless contract negotiation with the museum’s management. On Friday, September 27, the workers voted by a 96% margin to authorize a strike if their demands for higher wages, health care benefits, and improved worker safety are not met. Their threat to strike comes ahead of a major retrospective of the works of German artist Hans Haacke scheduled to open at the museum on October 23.
The New Museum Union was formed in January of this year, and in March it began negotiating for a contract. In the months since then, the workers have accused the museum’s management of stalling the talks. In a recent statement, a representative of the union said that while the two sides have made progress in the past few weeks, the union voted to authorize a strike as “a way of putting pressure on the museum.”
In June of this year, the New Museum Union workers rallied outside the museum to protest the management’s resistance to their demands. Joined by dozens of sympathizers from other unions, the staffers distributed buttons and leaflets to patrons visiting the museum. In a recent social media campaign under the hashtag #ISupportNMUnion, the union has enlisted artists and museum workers in support of its struggle. Among those are Hannah Black, the group Guerrilla Girls, poet and scholar Fred Moten, and members of the Museum of Modern Art union.
In a response sent to Hyperallergic by email, the New Museum said that while it started bargaining with the union on March 28, it did not receive the union’s economic proposals until the end of May. The museum continued:
The union was unavailable for most of June. We responded with our economic counterproposal at a meeting in early July.
Since that time we’ve had productive sessions and have made considerable progress: we’ve accepted many of the union’s proposals, and they’ve accepted many of ours. At no point were talks stalled.
The New Museum added that it requested additional bargaining dates in September to move the process forward. “We are hopeful that we can bridge any remaining gaps and reach an agreement soon that benefits our staff,” it said.