Brooklyn Museum Union Ratifies First Contract, Averting Strike

The union at the Brooklyn Museum voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to ratify a three-and-a-half year contract, one day before the group was set to strike. 

This concludes negotiations that began in January 2022 between the staff’s union, Local 2110 UAW, and museum administration, and shows that a labor movement that is sweeping other sectors is continuing to impact art institutions.

“We’re thrilled to have finally reached this agreement with the Museum,” Elizabeth St. George, an assistant curator of decorative arts, said in a statement. “I will now have the opportunity to do the work I love at a Museum I love in a workplace with union rights.”

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Per union spokesperson Maida Rosenstein, the agreement guarantees a 23 percent wage boost over the life of the contract, raising the minimum wage and promising annual raises. The cost of health care benefits will also drop, while expanding its coverage to part-time staff averaging 20 hours per week. Some $50,000 has also been set aside for professional training.

A spokesperson fo the Brooklyn Museum told ARTnews: “We’re so pleased to have reached an agreement with our UAW-represented staff. We believe this agreement reflects the Museum’s ongoing commitment to important wage equity investments across the organization, and is the right decision for our staff and the economic sustainability of the Museum. We thank the UAW Local 2110 and staff representatives for their collaboration in the collective bargaining process and look forward to continuing our important work together.”

In August 2021, some 130 employees of the Brooklyn Museum, including curators, conservators, editors, fundraisers, educators, and members of the visitor services department, voted overwhelmingly to unionize. They affiliated with the Technical, Office, and Professional Union, Local 2110, part of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, which also represents workers at the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among other cultural institutions across the US.

Contract negotiations with Brooklyn Museum leadership had stalled on issues of healthcare benefits, job security, and wages. According to the union, employees had not received a wage increase since 2020. Throughout negotiations, the union and their supporters became familiar presences at the museum’s luxe events, including the Thierry Mugler VIP gala and the Artists Ball, in a bid to bring attention to their cause. 

“The hard work of Museum staff is behind the Museum’s incredible exhibitions and programs,” said Samantha Cortez, a senior registrar. “Having a contract that raises our pay rates and spells out legally enforceable rights is an acknowledgment of the important contribution we make as a staff.”

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