The Jewish Museum of New York became one of the latest cultural institutions to take steps to unionize when, on January 10, staff there filed a petition for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by through representatives of UAW Local 2110. If approved, the union will include arts managers, curators, development staff, educators, visitor experience and retail employees and other administrative staff.
“The Jewish Museum is aware that staff have called for a union election,” a Jewish Museum spokesperson said. “The Museum greatly values its staff and will respectfully engage in any process that occurs.”
The Jewish Museum joins the ranks of many other arts institutions across the United States where employees are currently engaging in labor organizing and contract negotiation efforts, including the school and museum at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Hispanic Society and many more. The formation of unions has become a bigger trend in the cultural sector in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has again exposed many of the biggest shortcomings in this sector that cultural workers experience, including low wages. , harsh working conditions, inadequate benefits and lack of job security, while front-line museum staff, such as retail workers, educators, security guards and others, is often the most at risk of being exposed to Covid-19.
The pandemic has also led to many layoffs and furloughs at museums across the country. With the Omicron variant now sweeping the country, many museums have had to limit their opening hours, impose new safety guidelines and in some cases even close, often due to staff shortages, giving more impetus to the trade union movement. the whole industry,” says Bryan Cook, an arts manager at the Jewish Museum who has been involved in organizing efforts there and at the Guggenheim Museum. I know among full-time staff, the up and down benefits when HR plays with insurers every year can definitely be frustrating. Overall, job security in a precarious world is very important.
Museum officials have until Jan. 20 to respond to staff’s demand for a union election. From there, if the request is not contested, elections will take place.