On Tuesday, February 16 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City signed the first union contract in the museum’s history.
The new union, Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, includes twenty-two full-time employees and 145 on-call staff. Employees in the union work in facilities, art services, preparation, and fabrication services.
The three-year collective bargaining agreement signed this week includes an average wage increase of ten percent, better health insurance for full-time workers, new standards of transparency in scheduling shifts, and new safety standards. Guggenheim Union member Bryan Cook told Hyperallergic, “throughout negotiations, it was clear that management understood the level of work we produce in support of world-class exhibitions, but that they had no intention of compensating us fairly. We fought them and won an average wage increase of 10%, bonuses, premium-free health insurance for families, transparent scheduling practices, safety improvements, and dignity.”
The contract comes after over a year of tense negotiations. Employees voted to unionize on June 27, 2019. Many believed the museum was dragging its feet on negotiating with the union. When the Guggenheim reopened in September, workers staged a protest outside. Messages like “We Deserve a Better Guggenheim” and “Fair Contract Now” flashed from screens on a protest truck. The artist groups Artists for Workers and the Illuminator also staged a protest that month in which they projected messages of solidarity on the facade of the museum.
Unions members believe that this contract will set a precedent for negotiating better employment conditions at the museum in the future. William Lynn, IUOE Vice President and Local 30 Business Manager, said in a statement, “Our collective struggle to unionize led to negotiating a historic contract that raises working conditions and gives the members a powerful voice in the workplace. With the Guggenheim, we will continue to improve standards together.”