After two years of negotiations and numerous demonstrations and rallies, staff at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City announced on 8 August that they had finally reached a first union contract. It was ratified with an overwhelming 97% of the vote.
“It is tough for the first contract, but I’m very excited and proud of everything that we were able to accomplish,” Julie K. Smitka, associate producer of digital experience at the Guggenheim and a bargaining committee member, tells The Art Newspaper. “With a negotiation, there is give and take. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s extremely strong and something we should all be proud of.”
The union, which first formed in 2021, voted to become part of Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents workers at museums across the Northeast, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass Moca), the New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Staff members at both the Brooklyn Museum and Jewish Museum are currently working with UAW Local 2110 on their own first contracts.) The Guggenheim union is made up of roughly 150 people across multiple departments including education, curatorial, visitor services, digital marketing and administration. (In 2021, about 160 art handlers and maintenance workers separately signed a union contract with the Guggenheim as part of Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.)
“The Guggenheim is pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with UAW Local 2110,” a spokesperson for the Guggenheim said in a statement. “The contract is effective 1 July 2023, through 31 December 2025, and provides for a minimum 9% pay increase over the term of the contract, which is in addition to a 3% increase previously given by the museum in January 2023.”
The contract also includes an increase in matching retirement contributions for longer-term employees and funding for professional development in addition to protecting existing benefits. It allows for joint labour and management committees, health and safety protections and pay differentials for employees who fill in for staff on leave. Additionally, it allows for guaranteed minimum pay rates for full- and part-time employees. (A summary of the contract can be found here.)
“We’re very pleased by the contract,” says union spokesperson Maida Rosenstein. “It results in substantial gains for the Guggenheim staff—materially, but also in establishing a unionised workplace that changes the landscape for the staff and has put eyes on the workers themselves.”