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New Museum Union Threatens Strike Amid Ongoing Contract Negotiations [Updated]

A New Museum Union action in June 2019.

The New Museum Union staging an action at the New Museum in New York on June 25, 2019.

ALEX GREENBERGER/ARTNEWS

One of the most high-profile workers’ unions in the New York art world has threatened to strike.

On Friday, the New Museum Union said its members had voted to authorize a strike amid a months-long contract negotiation period with officials at the museum. The union, which first began negotiations with the Manhattan institution in March, has been demanded a minimum annual wage of $51,000, health care for all employees, and a greater attention to worker safety.

According to members of the New Museum Union, museum leadership has pushed back against these demands. “We’ve been bargaining for almost a year now,” Dana Kopel, a senior editor and publications coordinator at the New Museum and a member of the union’s organizing committee, told ARTnews. “We’ve had a lot of trouble from the beginning. They’ve been hostile to most, if not all, of our proposals.”

In a statement to ARTnews, a New Museum spokesperson said that, since negotiations began in March, “we’ve had productive sessions and have made considerable progress: we’ve accepted many of the union’s proposals, and they’ve accepted many of ours. At no point were talks stalled.” According to the spokesperson, the museum had “requested additional bargaining dates in September so we could make greater progress,” and leadership remained “hopeful” that an agreement on the contract would be reached.

Kopel said that the talks have seen some forward motion recently. “We’ve made progress in the past few weeks—bargaining has ramped up, and we’re meeting frequently,” she said. But amid pushback, she added, the union has resorted to authorizing a strike as “a way of putting pressure on the museum.”

A release sent by the union said that the strike would begin if the contract was not reached by an unspecified deadline. Kopel declined to name a date, saying that the union’s members were choosing not to talk about it publicly.

In June, during the opening for the museum’s summer exhibitions, the union staged an action in which more than 70 workers called on the museum to meet the union’s demands. In the recent weeks, the New Museum Union has begun an awareness-raising campaign on social media, enlisting figures such as artist Hannah Black, the activist artist collective Guerrilla Girls, writer and thinker Fred Moten, and members of the Museum of Modern Art union to take pictures of themselves with signs supporting the group.

Updated 9/27/19, 8:30 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a comment from a New Museum spokesperson.

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