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Brooklyn Museum workers say they are ‘overworked and underpaid’

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The Brooklyn Museum was buzzing last night with the annual Brooklyn Artists Ball fundraising event in honor of Carrie Mae Weems. At 6 p.m., staff members dressed in cocktail attire were gathered at the front of the museum, negotiating with food truck Smash Burger to move a few feet from its designated location and greeting VIP guests as they exited the Ranges. Rovers. The mild weather and extended hours of sunshine definitely added an element of excitement, especially for the museum’s union staff who demonstrated for the event, demanding a fair contract with improved wages across the board.

Compared to the last union meeting by the icy and rainy evening of November 16 at Thierry Mugler: Couturissime event, last night’s turnout was significantly higher with additional support from UAW Local 2110 workers and other union arts institution workers who showed up in solidarity. That being said, it seems there hasn’t been much improvement in bargaining over the past six months as union staff demand to be heard.

“At the moment, we’re really stalled on pay raises,” said Samantha Cortez, the museum’s senior registrar and member of the bargaining committee. “We’re asking for at least a 9-10% increase or more, and the museum won’t even go beyond 4%. It took them ages to even accept that.

A row of Brooklyn Museum union employees, UAW Local 2110 workers and supporters of other unionized arts institutions outside the museum

Cortez clarified that the union was fighting for wage increases at all levels and not for any particular branch of workers. She noted that despite an upward push for negotiations on behalf of part-time staff, the Brooklyn Museum continues to live up to its reputation for providing some of the lowest salaries of any institution. arts in the city. Although the museum has not participated in any tangible union busting, Cortez said increasing non-union job offers with higher salaries and promoting union staff to non-union positions could also be equivalent, making echo the feelings that were discussed at the last gathering.

Picketers and union staffers marched in line with signs while a UAW Local 2110 member chanted “overworked and underpaid” and other similar slogans into a megaphone. No music this time, except for the din of cars passing by, honking in support. Supporters of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) union and other friends of the museum were also at the scene, demanding fair wages for staff.

Filmmaker and researcher Suneil Sangziri, winner of the Brooklyn Museum’s fourth annual UOVO award, and his wife Maya walked with the picketers for about an hour before attending the ball. “I’m also in the UAW and we just went on strike at the New School and won a fair contract, so I felt called to support in solidarity,” Sangziri told Hyperallergic. “It’s amazing to see this coalition of cross-cultural institutions,” Sangziri said, referring to the union members’ on-site solidarity at BAM. “I think there needs to be more, and I think all of us who are involved in the arts have a responsibility to show up for the people who are literally the glue that holds our institutions together.”

A UAW Local 2110 organizer’s megaphone sings in the light breeze as union staff line up at the side entrance to the museum where VIP guests were dropped off and greeted

Cortez said the union will continue to picket major events to raise awareness and get the attention of museum administration and the museum’s board, especially after the The Whitney Museum union recently reached a fair deal. “We are not going to leave and we will continue to make ourselves visible,” she concluded above the rallying chants and boos and horns of support from passers-by.

“We respect the rights of our negotiated employees to protest safely and remain committed to reaching an agreement as soon as possible,” a museum spokesperson said in response to Hyperallergic request for comment.

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