UOVO’s workers with Senator Julia Salazar (center) and supporters from other labor unions in rallying outside the company’s headquarters in Long Island City on October 23 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

2019 has been a year of great accomplishments for workers at museums and cultural institutions in the United States. In the span of one year, workers at the New Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Tenement Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Frye Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, have all successfully formed unions to fight for better wages, benefits, and safety regulations.

Apart from that, with a widely circulated salary spreadsheet, the group Art/Museum Salary Transparency has effectively created a public discourse around the issue of low pay and income disparity within cultural institutions.

But the work is unfinished. Not all labor struggles have ended favorably to art workers in 2019: Art Handlers at UOVO lost a union vote by a narrow margin, and at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the museum’s owners abruptly shuttered the institution just days after its employees announced their intentions to unionize.

Unfinished Work: Stories from the Movement for Democracy in the Art World,” a free event hosted at Verso Books in New York this week, will offer “a first-hand account” of the recent union efforts by art handlers at Uovo Fine Art and a discussion of the ongoing struggles of arts workers to organize their workplaces and industry. The event is organized by Teamsters Local 814 in collaboration with the Culture Workers Education Center and the New Museum Union.

Speakers at the event will include representatives from Uovo art handlers and Teamsters Local 814, the New Museum Union UAW2110, Culture Workers Education Center, Art Handler Magazine, and the Art Handlers Alliance.

“Audience participation and questions are encouraged,” the organizers say in an announcement for the event.

When: Wednesday, December 18, 7-9pm

Where: Verso Books, 20 Jay Street, Suite 1010, Brooklyn, NY 11201

More info at Culture Workers Education Center

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...