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Guggenheim Staff Ratify Inaugural Union Contract

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After nearly two years of bargaining, unionized workers at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum ratified their first contract. Ninety-seven percent of the roughly 150 curators, conservators, educators, and public programmers affiliated under the aegis of Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers agreed to a two-and-a-half-year contract awarding them average raises of roughly 11 percent over the span of the pact. Workers will see incremental wage increases of 3 percent through December 21, 2025, with the first one effective retroactively, to July 1. Also included in the agreement were paid family leave, improvements to health insurance and retirement plans, a clearly outlined grievance process, paid professional development opportunities, and job-protection stipulations. Part-time and temporary workers also received protections.

“It feels great to have a contract that’s the culmination of all of our organizing efforts,” said union member and associate producer Julie K. Smitka in a statement. “It’s transformative for our workplace. Not only are there increases that exceed what the Guggenheim historically granted, but we now have rights at work that are legally enforceable.”

The benefits supplied by the contract are similar to those awarded unionized employees at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New Museum, but the duration is half that of the typical five-year agreement. Public programs manager Alan Seise, a member of the bargaining committee, told the New York Times that “for a first contract, a shorter contract is better because it serves as a foundation for us to build upon in future negotiations.” The ratification arrives days after the Guggenheim announced it would raise its ticket prices, and comes on the heels of a bumpy few years for the institution: Like many museums around the world, the Guggenheim was forced to temporarily shutter and lay off staff as the Covid-19 crisis gripped the globe. Shortly thereafter, amid the rise of Black Lives Matter and attendant allegations of entrenched racism at the institution, it longtime chief curator, Nancy Spector, left. Veteran director Richard Armstrong, who initially resisted unionization at the institution, announced his departure last year.


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