Museum workers in New York may potentially go on strike following an authorization vote that came after months of contract negotiations. The New Museum Union said that members had agreed to strike after museum officials failed to agree to its demands for health care for all museum workers, greater safety protections and a minimum annual salary of $51,000 for all workers at the institution. Union leaders said that New Museum officials had rejected the demands and that negotiations had been going on for nearly a full year. A member of the bargaining committee said that museum officials were “hostile” to the majority of union proposals in the bargaining process.
Museum officials claimed that the collective bargaining negotiations were not stalled and that both parties had accepted some of the other’s proposals during the talks. They said they were hopeful that a contract could be reached before workers walked off the job. Union members also said that there had been some forward movement in the talks but that the strike vote was important as a means of demonstrating the workers’ seriousness about their demands. The union declined to name a specific deadline for reaching a contract before the strike vote would be implemented, saying that members had not agreed to public disclosure.
Union workers have engaged in actions during museum events and launched a social media campaign. Artists and activists have expressed their support for the workers, including the Guerilla Girls art collective, prominent intellectuals and renowned artists as well as fellow union members at the Museum of Modern Art.
Workers in a variety of fields may benefit from union representation and the power of collective bargaining. Workers interested in organizing a union or unions working through negotiations may work with labor law attorneys to protect and advance their rights on the job.