The exterior of Film Forum on New York City's West Side (via Wikimedia Commons)

Workers at Film Forum, the New York City nonprofit cinema known for its art-house and repertory programming, are pushing to unionize. Today, April 26, the workers filed a petition to join Local 2110 UAW, which represents staff at multiple universities and institutions including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New Museum

According to a press release, an “overwhelming majority” of Film Forum workers petitioned for election into the union. Per National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) procedures, Film Forum must respond to the petition by May 5.

The movie theater employs around 50 workers, half of whom are part-time. According to the Film Forum Union’s website, which went live today, part-time workers would be included in the union along with full-time theater, facilities, administrative, programming, and publicity staff.

The group cited just hiring practices, health and safety measures for frontline staff, and fair compensation among its reasons for organizing.

“We join together as a collective unit, in pursuit of agency and transparency in the matters that impact our daily work lives and livelihood,” the union said in a mission statement thread on Twitter.

Film Forum has been a core theater for independent films since its founding on the Upper West Side in 1970, when cinephiles could watch movies there that they couldn’t see at mainstream cinemas. It opened its current location near the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan in 1990, and even in the age of streaming, the theater continues to attract crowds, and its art-house selection remains highly influential.

The theater now has four screens and sells more than 250,000 tickets a year. It has an annual budget of $6 million, and as a registered nonprofit, it receives money from private and public funds. Its endowment, started in 2000 thanks to a $1.25 million gift from the Ford Foundation, now stands at $6 million

In 2020, workers at Film at Lincoln Center also joined UAW 2110. Last month, Hyperallergic reported on Whitney Museum of American Art workers’ fight to join UAW 2110, and in 2020, staff at the Jewish Museum petitioned to join.

“We’re very excited to have Film Forum staff organizing with our union,” President of Local 2110 Maida Rosenstein said in a press release. “Ultimately, unionizing will make Film Forum a stronger, more sustainable workplace for all.”

Film Forum has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.