The Guggenheim Union has shared on its Twitter account screenshots of several e-mails from staff asking the museum to reconsider its policy of not paying on-call (freelance) workers past March 29. “On-call” employees are defined by the institution as “casual hour employees who work when called in for specific projects.” The Guggenheim has been closed as of March 13 in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I do understand the seriousness of the situation but I do wonder why all of the freelancers are not considered as part of the Income Continuation Fund,” reads one letter, authored by a freelancer represented by the union and addressed to Sarah Rosen, director of human resources, and Elizabeth Duggal, senior deputy director and chief operating officer. “This is a terrible time to exclude people who earn their living at your institution from having basics for their family.”
“I committed to work on the LTA Exhibition for 22 days,” the letter continues, referring to the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art (LTA) art education program. “I ask that you consider how not being paid for work already planned will affect people like my husband and two children for basic things like access to food and housing.”
Hyperallergic previously reported that the Guggenheim would not pay its on-call employees past the end of March, while part- and full-time workers would be compensated through April 12.
“Myself, along with my fellow on-call workers, live paycheck to paycheck, depending on every hour of work we can get,” reads another e-mail. “The on-call employees of the Guggenheim, many who have worked at the museum for years, take pride in their work at the museum.
The calls to pay freelancers are more urgent for those who had work scheduled prior to the outbreak of the virus, but the museum’s closure is affecting staff across the board. Alex Nathanson, an on-call multimedia engineer who has worked as part of the Guggenheim’s multimedia crew since 2015, told Hyperallergic in an e-mail that while he did not have work scheduled, he will feel the impact of the crisis.
“I definitely lost a ton of future work, because they postponed or cancelled all future shows,” he wrote.
In several tweets, the union says it has not yet received a response from the museum. “No response from admin. Many of us have worked @ the museum for decades and we don’t even get a response,” they describe.
The Guggenheim has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.