News and Updates
Artforum 08/03/21: https://www.artforum.com/news/whitney-workers-vote-96-1-to-unionize-86284
The Art Newspaper 05/18/21: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/employees-at-the-whitney-and-hispanic-society-seek-to-unionise
Hyperallergic 05/18/21: https://hyperallergic.com/646835/whitney-museum-workers-are-unionizing/
New York Times 05/17/21: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/17/arts/whitney-museum-forming-union.html
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Whitney Museum of American Art Staff Are Unionizing
NEW YORK, NY—Technical, Office and Professional Union Local 2110 UAW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, May 17th, 2021, for a union election among professional and non-professional staff of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The unit includes conservators, curators, educators, editors, front-facing staff, porters, and more. Staff members cite job insecurity, wage inequities, health and safety, and pandemic lay-offs as major reasons for organizing a union. Staff are unionizing with the Technical, Office, and Professional Union Local 2110 UAW, which represents cultural and educational workers across New York and New England.
“We want to build on the legacy of the Whitney by ensuring that, as a workforce, innovation comes with respect, integrity, and fairness. We believe that forming a union will strengthen the institution because we, the workers who make the institution run, will be collectively advocating for better terms and conditions of our employment.” said Karissa Francis, Visitor Service Assistant, who has been at the museum for four years.
The last few years have seen thousands of workers in cultural institutions decide to unionize. Employees at MASS MoCA, Studio in a School NYC, the Portland Museum of Art, and MFA, Boston voted to unionize with Local 2110 between November 2020 and April 2021. Many echoed similar issues of low pay, lack of job security, and little or no transparency about institutional plans. The economic fallout caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which further exposed the insecurities of non-unionized workplaces, further galvanized workers to organize.
“Many of us are looking for more job security within our roles at the Whitney. The lay-offs were a wake-up call to the need for better protection, and we realized we would have to band together to negotiate for better working conditions,” says Francis. Due to the pandemic closure, the Whitney laid-off approximately 20% of its staff over two-rounds of lay-offs: 76 staffers in April 2020 and 15 staff in February 2021. “It has been amazing to see the outpouring of support we’ve had for one another in a way that can actually make drastic improvements to all of our lives.”
“Unionizing is about our right to live and work in this city with dignified wages and healthcare,” continues Francis. “Things are changing nationally for arts workers, and we, as Whitney staff members, want to be part of that positive change.”