Unions, layoffs, closure and protests. The Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles was once considered the peaceful haven for the artworks obtained by its founders. In past one week, it has turned into a place of chaos.
The attempts of Unionize
The story apparently begins with the attempts of 70 workers in the museum to unionize. Most of these workers belonged to the visitors services department, the section responsible for managing the visitors in the museum. There were talks of joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Some of the demands for forming the union were better wages and a restructuring of the employment terms.
Lay Off and Closure
Days after this attempt, the foundation laid off at least 60 employees. Most of them belonged to the (you guessed it!) visitors services department. Though the foundation denied any connection between the two events, many others disagreed. Eli Petzold, a member of the organizing committee that was lobbying to form a union, called it an “illegal decision.” Then, soon after the layoffs, the museum announced to be closed indefinitely. This action, which came into effect since Wednesday, effectively put a halt to many ongoing exhibitions in the museum from artists like Anna Uddenberg and Donna Huanca. The foundation later said that they have no plans to reopen anytime soon, but gave no reason other than “low attendance” behind the closure. However, according to many, this plan to closure came abruptly and as a knee-jerk reaction to the unionizing attempts. For instance, just until last week, the museum was in full swing to prepare for upcoming exhibitions.
Workers Strike Back
On Friday, the workers decided to take things on their own hands. Despite the closure, employees turned up to work wearing a black armband in protest. One of the chants heard was “Union busting is disgusting!” Petzold, who was part of this group, said that they don’t recognize the decision of the foundation as either legal or legitimate. Despite workers standing outside the museum for many hours with the cries of “Let us in,” the gates remained closed.
The Marciano Art Foundation was founded by the Marciano couple in 2013 and opened to the public in 2017. Another group owned by the Marcianos, Guess, saw a similar event in 1997 when 20 employees were fired after attempts to unionize.