Home Museums The Guggenheim Museum union is mobilizing for the VIP opening

The Guggenheim Museum union is mobilizing for the VIP opening

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum workers gathered outside the Manhattan Museum yesterday March 30 for the VIP opening of exhibits Gego: measuring infinity And Sarah Sze: Accelerated. Staff, some of whom worked on the exhibits, came together to raise awareness and lobby the museum for better pay and job security, continuing their efforts at the press opening today.

For more than a year, the Guggenheim Museum union – part of the Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) union, United Auto Workers Local 2110 – has been negotiating a first contract with the museum. Maida Rosenstein, the union’s chief negotiator, said Hyperallergic that the museum was offering a 9.75% low-ball salary increase on a four-year contract. Museum staff are asking for a minimum 16.5% increase over the same period, increased hourly rates for frontline staff and theater technicians, and protection for project-based employees.

“The staff felt undervalued,” Rosenstein said. “They are the ones making things happen here and suffering from historically low wages.”

A union member hands out flyers to passers-by outside the Guggenheim Museum (photo by Rosemary Taylor, courtesy Guggenheim Museum Union)

Director of Public Programs Alan Seise echoed Rosenstein’s sentiments. He said Hyperallergic they chose last night for their demonstration because of the exhibits: a retrospective of German-Venezuelan artist Gertrud Goldschmidt, known as Gego, and a solo exhibition of installations by New York-based artist Sarah Sze. Seise believes the museum aimed to showcase a “progressive image” that night, signaling to the art world that it showcases the work of a diverse group of artists. However, this supposed commitment to diversity rings hollow for workers who do not receive a fair wage.

“It means very little if you’re not going to put your money where your mouth is, in my opinion,” Seise said.

In a statement, the Guggenheim said Hyperallergic that they bargain with workers “in good faith”.

“We are committed to maintaining a respectful and positive work environment for all of the Guggenheim’s exceptional staff,” a museum spokesperson said.

Union members holding leaflets and signs along Museum Mile (photo by Rosemary Taylor, courtesy Guggenheim Museum Union)

Curators, restorers and other professional staff unionized in October 2021 after filing a petition in July. Employees joined the union representing staff in similar positions at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hispanic Society of America. The decision to unionize came after the Guggenheim signed a contract with the union representing art managers and museum facility staff in FEBRUARY of the same year.

Along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile and clustered around crosswalks, union members approached attendees and passers-by, handing out fliers and encouraging drivers to “Honk 4 Fair Wages.” While many rushed, some stopped to pick up the document and said they were surprised to learn that the Guggenheim staff were unionized. Visitor Experiences Manager Nicolette Zorn said Hyperallergic that they have mostly received a positive reception from visitors and neighborhood residents eager to learn more about their efforts.

“It’s important for us to show management that the public and the supporters of the museum support the workers,” Zorn said.

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