After a Bitter Battle, the Guggenheim and Its New Union Have Struck a Deal for Improved Pay and Benefits

The employees formed the museum's first union last summer.

The Guggenheim Museum with the logo for the IUOE Local 30.
The Guggenheim Museum with the logo for the IUOE Local 30.

New York’s Guggenheim Museum has signed a contract with its first-ever labor union, which is the latest in a wave of collective-bargaining agreements at museums across the US.

“Local 30 committed to these workers that we would relentlessly pursue an agreement where their talents and skills were justly recognized,” said William Lynn, business manager and financial secretary of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 (IUOE), in a statement. “We are proud to announce today that such an agreement has been reached with the Guggenheim.” Lynn also serves as vice president to the international union of operating engineers.

The three-year contract covers 22 full-time staff who work in engineering, art services, preparation, and fabrication, as well as 145 on-call staff whose tasks include exhibition preparation, installation and maintenance. The agreement secures a raise of about 10 percent for covered employees, as well as annual bonuses for on-call workers, according to a union representative.

Full-time workers will now receive health care at no cost. Those currently receiving retirement benefits on a match basis will no longer have to pay in to their plan. The deal also increases parity for scheduling and other work rules, according to a joint announcement of the deal.

Members of the Guggenheim union. Courtesy of IUOE Local 30.

The union also represents employees of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as other cultural venues including Lincoln Center and some Broadway theaters.

“We are pleased to have reached a contract agreement with IUOE Local 30,” said the museum’s director, Richard Armstrong, in a statement. “I am grateful to our skilled colleagues who are members of IUOE Local 30 for their contributions towards fulfilling the museum’s mission.”

The employees voted to unionize this past summer after a period of fierce debate, during which one employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told Artnet News he felt he was being “railroaded” into voting yes. The vote to unionize came despite what union organizer Andres Puerta called “an old and tired management threat” by the museum, in which employees were reportedly told that if they unionized they could be forced to go on strike and be permanently replaced.

“We’re being treated like parasites,” one pro-union staffer told Artnet News at the time.

IUOE has more than 400,000 members nationwide, including 6,000 throughout New York and Connecticut, representing workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings, as well as municipal buildings and entertainment venues.


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