After 122 Days of Bargaining, MoMA Workers Enthusiastically Approve a New Contract That Gives Every Union Member a Raise

Only one issue remains to be determined.

MoMA Local 2110 members protest at the Museum of Modern Art ahead of contract negotiations. Photo courtesy of MoMA Local 2110.

The negotiations are over at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where MoMA Local 2110 has voted overwhelmingly to approve a new five-year contract. The previous agreement had expired May 20, and union members had been loudly critical of the museum’s initial offers, staging several protest events at the institution.

In a statement, union president Maida Rosenstein credited the successful negotiations to “the dedicated efforts and perseverance of our members,” who participated in collective actions in record numbers, as well as “the resounding vocal support from our colleagues, friends, and the public at large.”

Yesterday, 96 percent of union members ratified the new contract, which provides raises, retroactive to May 21, of at least three percent to all employees, and at least four percent for the lowest-paid quarter of the membership.

The contract insures additional three percent raises for each of the next two years, and three-and-a-half percent raises the last two years of the contract.

Last week, union members walked off their posts at lunchtime on Monday to sing union anthem “Solidarity Forever” and demonstrate in front of museum visitors. The protest gave visibility to member demands ahead of the resumption of negotiations, which had been on a break while members of both sides were taking summer vacations.

At the end of May, union members had staged a demonstration outside the Party in the Garden fundraiser. They had also staged weekly leafletting campaigns.

The union, also known as PASTA (the Professional and Administrative Staff Association of the Museum of Modern Art), is a white-collar chapter of the United Auto Workers Union. Roughly 260 museum employees, including gift shop and front desk workers as well as librarians and curators, are members.

The contract was finalized Tuesday, following a marathon 12-hour bargaining session between the museum and the negotiating committee. The two sides finally came to an agreement—negotiations began in April and lasted 122 days—after the museum agreed to meet union demands to preserve the so-called “step increases” on employee salaries, based on seniority.

MoMA union workers protest at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday, August 6, 2018. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

“The museum wanted to get rid of our step system, which is the primary way longer term employees get their salaries to a livable rate in New York City,” said Chelsey Swilik, an administrative assistant in visitor engagement and member of the union bargaining committee, in a statement.

The week’s negotiations also saw the museum withdraw a proposal to increase its use of non-union temporary staff members as it prepares to unveil a massive expansion plan in 2019. The union also won concessions in regard to health care, so that annual salary increases no longer mean employees bumped into higher salary tiers see increases in the premiums for family coverage. (There are no employee contributions for single coverage.) The provision is retroactive to 2016.

There are also improvements to commissions and sales bonuses for employees in retail and visitor engagement, as well as paid family leave benefits. Orientation for new employees will now include meetings with union stewards to provide information about their benefits and rights.

One issue is still on the table. A hearing planned with a neutral outside arbitrator will determine whether or not MoMA should be required to offer promotional opportunities for curatorial assistants. Currently, they are the only union members without job security, and are routinely let go after four years on the job.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics