After 16 months of negotiations, the Whitney Museum of Art has ratified its first contract with UAW Local 2110, which represents around 200 employees of the cultural institution, the museum and the union announced in statements Monday.
The three-and-a-half-year labor agreement provides expanded benefits for the unionized workers, including raises and improved job security.
In August 2021, Whitney workers voted overwhelmingly to affiliate themselves with UAW Local 2110, which also represents workers at the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum in New York. With the vote, the Whitney employees joined the wave of organizing at art institutions across the United States driven by the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 20% of the Whitney’s had been laid off since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, while wages had stagnated despite rising rents and inflation in New York City. According to the union, half of the Whitney’s employees made less than $20 an hour.
Negotiations began that November, but soon stalled on issues including healthcare and retirement benefits, job security for full-time and part-time staff, and wages. Meanwhile, members of the union began staging demonstrations outside the Whitney’s luxe events, including the 2022 Whitney Biennial and, most recently, the Art Party in February, to bring attention to the situation.
“We’re thrilled to have reached an agreement with the Museum that raises minimum pay rates across the board at every employee level,” Ramsay Kolber, a curatorial research associate and part of the Union Bargaining Committee, said in a Local 2110 statement emailed to ARTnews. “The contract also has wage increases that will continue to lift salaries even higher over the next two years.”
The new contract sees significant, long-term wage increases: employee wages will be raised by 15%, retroactive from January 1, 2023. Additionally, they will receive a $1,000 signing bonus and 9.5% raise over the course of the contract. The minimum hourly wage has been raised from an hourly rate of $17 to $22, and by June 2025, that wage will be increased to $24 per hour.
Under the new contract, the museum will be obligated to offer extra hours to permanent workers before hiring temporary help. Part-time staff will now receive paid holidays as well as first consideration for open full-time positions.
“We’re excited to have a contract that recognizes our contribution to the Museum,” Sandy LaPorte, a Facilities Supervisor added in the statement. “We work out of the limelight and have sometimes felt underappreciated and unheard. With this contract, our jobs are protected and we have a voice at the Museum.”
A spokesperson for the Whitney told ARTnews that the museum is “pleased to reach an agreement with UAW Local 2110. After negotiating in good faith for many months, we have finalized a contract that serves the best interests of our staff. We look forward to a longstanding and productive working relationship with 2110.”