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Workers at New York’s New Museum Take Steps Toward Unionizing

The New Museum.

COURTESY NEW MUSEUM

Staff members at the New Museum in New York have initiated the process of forming a union under the name NewMuU-UAW Local 2110, saying that they seek to obtain greater transparency for workers at the institution and to protect their rights.

“We have come together from across all the museum’s departments to collectively improve our conditions,” the staffers supporting the union said in a release on Thursday. “Forming a union will enable us, as well as future New Museum employees, to effectively advocate for changes in staff conditions that will make the New Museum a stronger and more sustainable institution. We believe in the New Museum and its mission; we want it to succeed. But we also recognize a need for critical changes at this moment in the Museum’s growth.”

In a statement, the New Museum said, “We want [the museum’s staff] to make a fully informed decision. In the meantime, we look forward to working with our staff to serve our audience and community.”

The proposed New Museum union is related to UAW Local 2110, which also has branches at such New York institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New-York Historical Society. Last summer, members of the MoMA union staged demonstrations at the museum over health care plans and overtime policies.

“This definitely comes out of our care and support for the museum,” Dana Kopel, a senior editor and publications coordinator at the New Museum and a member of the union’s organizing committee, told ARTnews. “We just want to be able to sustain ourselves there and have the agency to make changes that we feel like have to be made collectively. . . . I think it’s a really good opportunity, not just for the New Museum, but also for the cultural landscape in New York and in the U.S. In the U.S., there’s not a ton of unionized cultural institutions, and it would be amazing if we could spark that change.”

In the release, NewMuU-UAW Local 2110 said that the New Museum was working with the Kentucky-based consulting firm Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan to launch what the union called “a harsh anti-union campaign.” The firm did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The union said it was working to achieve inclusivity in both the New Museum’s programming and in its attitude toward workers. “The Museum’s mission centers intersectional feminist concerns and cross-cultural dialogue, and our exhibitions, programs, and initiatives aim to model inclusivity and access,” the union said in a release. “As the New Museum Union, we ask, above all, that these ideals be mirrored in the Museum’s working conditions, hiring practices, wages, and benefits.”

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