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The New Museum in New York (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

After losing its entire bargaining committee in layoffs and furloughs, the New Museum Union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) accusing the museum of unfair labor practices and of violating the National Labor Relations Act.

The complaint, filed by Local 2110 UAW on July 21, accuses the New Musem of laying off bargaining unit members in a discriminatory and retaliatory act; refusing to provide union representatives with relevant information for bargaining; and reprimanding union members “based upon protected activity,” specifically posts on social media.

“While the National Relations Board investigates these charges, we won’t let [the New Museum] get away with targeting union supporters or trying to brush their ongoing anti-union hostility under the rug,” the union said in a statement on Twitter yesterday, August 10.

Last week, the New Museum announced that it has rehired 23 furloughed workers, including 14 union members. The workers will return to their jobs on August 17. However, in July the museum laid off 18 other workers who were furloughed in March.

“We don’t believe this charge has merit,” a spokesman for the museum told Hyperallergic in an email.

“Since our closure, we have suffered a devastating loss of income as have most museums around the country, forcing a dramatic and painful downsizing of programs and staffing,” the museum’s statement to Hyperallergic said. The statement reiterated the museum’s commitment last week to lower the threshold for healthcare benefits to cover more part-time workers and continue the tiered salary reductions for the museum’s top management through the fiscal year 2021.

The New Museum Union detailed its allegations against the museum with a string of statements on its Twitter page.

“The New Museum laid off our entire steward committee and laid off or furloughed our entire bargaining committee + other vocal union supporters continuing the hostility they’ve shown us since we organized in January 2019,”  one tweet said.

In regards to the article in the complaint that accuses the museum of withholding information from the union, the workers write about the museum’s management: “They claimed they had no info about plans to reopen — even as they were meeting with managers, other museum staff, and an epidemiologist to discuss these plans.”

Last week, while announcing the return of some of its furloughed workers, the museum announced that is preparing to reopen in fall, pending the approval of New York City and New York State.

The union also claims that some of its members were handed warnings for a “silly Instagram post” that one union member posted on her personal account while she was furloughed. “Management may not like it, but shitposting is free speech,” they wrote.

“We’ve had productive meetings with the union over the past several weeks regarding reopening guidelines and health and safety protocols,” the museum said in its response to the complaint. “Today, we have 21 full- and part-time staff members and 33 seasonal staff members in the union, and we look forward to continuing a cooperative dialogue.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Follow him on Instagram @hakimbishara and send him your tips, comments, and questions at hakim@hyperallergic.com.