Wednesday morning, approximately 100 staff members at the Museum of Modern Art belonging to the local 2110 union–who previously staged a protest at the institution’s “Party in the Garden” gala over cuts to its benefits during contract negotiations–went to the office of MoMA’s director, Glenn Lowry, and hand-delivered the following letter to Lowry, as well as to James Gara, the museum’s COO:
“To Glenn Lowry,
We the undersigned members of P.A.S.T.A. /MoMA Local 2110 are united in our commitment to maintain the highest standard in staff benefits. This arises from our deep commitment to the Museum and its mission. MoMA has always been a leader—we ask the Museum to place itself at the forefront in this area rather than follow a negative trend that would severely undermine the economic security of its staff. We call on you to uphold the mission of the museum by reevaluating its position on wages and health care benefits with insight, imagination, and intelligence.”
The protestors’ collective bargaining agreement with MoMA expired May 20, 2015, though the deadline has been extended until this Friday.
Though the museum’s 2014 endowment and investments were $838.9 million (a $132.6 million increase from the year before), the proposed cuts would require employees to pay up to 15% of the cost of their surgical or hospitalization bills, in addition to much higher copays. MoMA has announced a controversial second expansion in more than a decade, which critics say will “move the museum only further in a crowd-pleasing direction, eroding the seriousness and critical distance from popular culture that built its reputation,” according to the New York Times.
The average salary of all 286 union members is $49,000, with the lower end of the group earning $29,000. In contrast, Artnet reported that MoMA director Glenn Lowry received $2.1 million in salary, bonus, and benefits in 2013. Other senior executives earned a sizable amount as well—COO James Gara earned $1.2 million in pay and benefits; chief investment officer Frank Ahimaz received $756,000; associate director Kathy Halbreich made $532,000; chief curator for painting and sculpture Ann Temkin earned $353,000; and chief curator-at-large Klaus Biesenbach made $315,000.
Phi Tran, a 24-year-old visitor services assistant who was present for the delivery of the letter, said that after receiving it, Lowry said he would “definitely take a look,” and as the group was turning to leave, added, “One more thing—I really appreciate your efforts and I don’t want you to think that they are going unnoticed.”
The union members have also created a Change.org petition, which you may view here.