LOS ANGELES — The labor movement is spreading across Los Angeles’s museum world as employees at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced their intentions to unionize Friday morning, November 22. A group of about 50 employees from several departments including visitor services, communications, exhibitions, and retail, gathered outside the office of MOCA Director Klaus Biesenbach to read a statement and formally declare their plans to form a union. “We ask that the Board and Management respect and not interfere with our democratic right to organize and to bargain with us in good faith for a contract that will ensure a living wage and a sustainable lifestyle for all present and future workers,” their statement read, as posted on their Instagram account. Biesenbach was not in his office at the time, according to Los Angeles Magazine.
“While we respect the right of employees to decide whether or not they wish to be represented by a union, we do not believe that this union is in the best interest of our employees or the museum,” reads a statement from the museum provided to Hyperallergic via email.
This action by MOCA employees comes just days after the museum announced that it will be offering free general admission beginning January 11. Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times noted that “free admission typically means a significant jump in attendance,” leading to “a slew of infrastructure and visitor engagement changes,” to better manage the increased traffic. These changes could potentially put a greater strain on visitor services workers.
It also comes just weeks after a similar unionization effort was announced by workers at the Marciano Art Foundation, which was followed shortly by the laying off of all 70 visitor services associates and the shuttering of the institution. It is worth noting that Maurice Marciano, who founded Guess Jeans with his brother Paul, is a Chair Emeritus on MOCA’s board, and Biesenbach’s full title is the Maurice Marciano Director.
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Isn’t it just amazing how incredibly incompetent so many leaders of public institutions in and around SoCal are? Los Angeles has been hailed as a burgeoning centre for the arts for a few years now. Los Angeles as a city has perhaps a higher profile on the global stage than ever before. LeBron has arrived! The Olympics are on their way. Silicon Valley cannot get enough of the content produced in the region. Frieze has arrived! Geez … but the leaders of the public museums and galleries are desperately hanging onto a model that expired in the last century. They have no vision for a new future, they are confused, they are invested in a busted status quo. Seriously, can’t we do better than Biesenbach and the gang? They’re old, they are in the twilight of their careers / lives, they have no energy, they are insecure, they are frightened.
Please Los Angeles, let’s get the next gen into leadership now!
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