Just after noon on Sunday, as the day’s first visitors entered MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York, installers and maintenance workers at the museum who are part of the union Local 30 led an action in protest of PS1’s wage policies. Representatives for the union had previously alleged that the rates they are paid are not equal to those of their colleagues at the Museum of Modern Art and are below the industry standard; today’s action was intended to raise awareness for their ongoing negotiations with PS1 management.
Outside the union’s entrance, Local 30 had erected a giant inflatable rat. Groups of PS1 installers and maintenance workers—and their colleagues from MoMA—assembled on street corners around the museum. Some of them handed out flyers to passersby that read, in part: “THE MOMA PS1 ART INSTALLERS AND BUILDING MAINTENANCE CREW ARE FIGHTING FOR A FAIR CONTRACT THAT PROTECTS AND IMPROVES THEIR JOBS AT THE MUSEUM.” The flyers also included a phone number for PS1 chief operating officer Jose Ortiz and urged the public to support the union.
Using a loudspeaker, representatives of the union stood beneath a sign advertising MoMA and PS1’s current Bruce Nauman retrospective, for which a number of union members had offered their services, and demanded to speak to management. One protestor turned on a siren and then said, “That’s the fairness police!”
He continued, “Support workers at MoMA PS1! They’re fighting for a fair contract. They’re part of the community. Management should be ashamed of itself.”
Last week, Local 30 said that it was currently engaged in negotiations to raise wages for installers and maintenance workers at PS1 after a previous contract expired on October 31. Installers at the museum currently receive wages at three rates, all of them between $20 and $30 per hour; their MoMA colleagues are given up to $47 per hour. Local 30 is currently seeking to raise its wages to between $30 and $40 per hour.
PS1 is a satellite space of MoMA, which has been affiliated with the Queens museum since 2000. Devoted primarily to exhibitions of emerging artists, PS1 is a kunsthalle-style institution, which means that it does not have a permanent collection. It hosts exhibitions seasonally, and the installers who work on them are employed temporarily.
In a prior statement, MoMA PS1 said, “MoMA PS1 has a terrific team of installation and maintenance staff, and we are committed to reaching a new contract with Local 30. We continue to make progress in negotiations, and have our next session scheduled for later this month. It’s been a productive process and we’re confident we’ll arrive at an amicable resolution.”
At today’s protest, one demonstrator said over a loudspeaker, “Where’s management? We’re ready to negotiate now!” By the end of the protest’s first hour, PS1 management had not made an appearance. The next meeting between Local 30 representatives and PS1 management is currently set for November 29.