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Whitney Union reaches tentative labor agreement

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Unionized workers at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York have reached a tentative inaugural contract with their employer after sixteen months of negotiations that have seen frustrated workers pickets a fundraiser on a freezing night earlier this year. Hyperallergic reports that the three-and-a-half-year contract grants staff members, especially the lowest paid among the ranks, substantial raises. Those who previously received a minimum hourly wage of $17 will now earn $22, retroactive to January 1, 2023, with a target hourly wage of $24 by the end of June 2025. In addition, the museum will increase the minimum wage paid to all employees across its five sectors, with staff members receiving on average salary increases of 15%, retroactive to January 1.

The contract also includes measures to improve the museum’s security protocols and requiring the Whitney to offer overtime to permanent workers before hiring temporary staff. Under the new agreement, temporary workers will receive the newly established minimum wage and benefit from paid leave. Additionally, they will be given preference when the museum seeks to fill permanent positions.

The employees of the Whitney had voted 96 to 1 to unionize under United Auto Workers Local 2110 in August 2021. Although the museum announced even before the vote that it would recognize the union, workers accused the institution of dragging its feet in contract talks and said Whitney officials suggested setting wage increases without engaging in the bargaining process.

“As a conservation project employee who has worked at the Whitney for five years, I am encouraged that this contract ensures that so many of the staff, including those hired for temporary or funded projects through grants, will be protected by our contract with a path to longer-term employment,” union member and conservation research associate Ramsay Kolber said in a statement. “Unionization in our field is one way to make long-term museum careers more sustainable and equitable.


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