Guggenheim Museum Workers Push to Unionize Amid Wave of Organizing Across U.S. Museums
After the Guggenheim Museum cut its staff by more than 10 percent last year, workers at the New York institution are pushing to unionize. If their drive is successful, it will be the second union formed at the museum in three years.
The conservators, curators, digital marketing, educators, visitor service, and administrative staff taking part in this drive are seeking to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. Groups at the New Museum and the Whitney Museum are also part of the UAW.
The UAW said that workers at the Guggenheim are seeking to obtain greater wage equity, more transparency, and increased job security.
Julie K. Smitka, a member of the museum’s digital experience department, said in a statement, “We can memorialize what we love about working at the Guggenheim into a union contract, so that our future colleagues are able to benefit too.”
“The Guggenheim has received notice of a petition from Local 2110 UAW to form a new union at the Museum and recognizes the right of its employees to enter collective bargaining,” a museum spokesperson said in a statement. “The Museum will announce next steps shortly.”
In 2019, more than 160 art handlers and maintenance workers at the Guggenheim, many of whom are employed at the museum on an on-call basis, joined Local 30, which also includes workers at New York’s MoMA PS1. This past February, members of the union signed a contract with the museum. During the 18-month negotiation period, relations between the museum and the union grew fraught, with workers staging a protest at the Guggenheim upon its reopening in September of last year following a Covid-related closure.
The Guggenheim is not the only New York museum where workers are currently seeking to unionize. More than 130 workers began taking steps toward forming such a group at the Brooklyn Museum last month.
Over the past few years, there has been a wave of workers organizing at art institutions across the country. Unions have sprung up at a host of museums nationwide, among them the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles.