Unionized workers at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City have ratified a contract by a 97% margin after two years of negotiations. Staffers across departments, including curators, conservators, educators, and public programming team members, unionized through Local 2110 UAW in October 2021. Using the slogan “do the Wright thing” — a reference to Frank Lloyd Wright, architect of the institution’s distinctive spiral building — they steadily applied pressure on the Guggenheim throughout the negotiations.
The contract guarantees a minimum nine percent wage increase for union positions over a two-and-a-half-year schedule, with the average sitting at 11%, on top of other benefits and protections for full-time, part-time, and temporary employees.
“It feels great to have a contract that’s the culmination of all of our organizing efforts,” Julie K. Smitka, an associate producer at the museum, said in a statement, highlighting that some of the increases outlined in the contract exceed what the Guggenheim has agreed to in the past. Maida Rosenstein, UAW Local 2110’s director of organizing, told Hyperallergic that approximately 150 Guggenheim staffers were included in the bargaining unit.
On top of the wage bumps in three percent increments (the first of which kicked in on July 1), the contract indicates that unionized staffers are entitled to paid family leave, capped health insurance premiums based on salary and plan, increased museum contributions for the retirement benefits of staffers with 10 or more years of employment, professional development opportunities paid for by the museum, and established pay differentials for employees filling in for higher-level roles among other existing benefits and protections.
“The contract puts into writing that the labor we all do at the museum is important, valuable, and worth protecting,” said Alan Seise, a manager of public programs in the museum’s education department who sat on the union’s bargaining committee. “It recognizes the dignity and humanity of everyone who works to enrich the lives of our visitors.” Local 2110 UAW’s ratification comes two and a half years after the Guggenheim Museum struck an agreement with unionized art handlers and facilities staff under Local 30, representing 22 full-time employees and 145 on-call workers.
A spokesperson for the museum specified that the minimum wage increase is in addition to the broader three percent increase that had been applied on January 1, 2023. “The Museum thanks UAW Local 2110 and staff representatives for their engagement in the collective bargaining process,” the spokesperson continued.
Just last week, the Guggenheim announced and implemented its admission fare hikes that the spokesperson had attributed to increased operational costs in light of inflation rates and post-pandemic financial strain.