The workers at the Whitney Museum finally succeeded in joining a union, after months of effort.
The workers at the museum had an almost unanimous vote of 96-1 in favor of joining the Local 2110. The group is a division of the United Auto Workers, one of the largest unions in the USA. With this, the wave of unionizing across the art community will only strengthen further.
Since the pandemic began last year, Whitney Museum has significantly cut its staff in a series of layoff rounds. Reportedly, 20 percent of the workers at the museum have been laid off since March 2020. In May, around 200 workers began an effort for unionizing, citing lack of job security as the primary reason behind the move. The Whitney leadership also seemingly backed the move in June, saying that it would recognize any group formed by the workers. This would be eliminated any need of voting for the Whitney workers before joining a union. However, workers later alleged that the museum was backing off from its promise, rejecting more than half the proposed names of the workers. Ultimately, the workers had to resort to voting.
After the successful vote on Monday, the Whitney union posted on Instagram:
“We are looking forward to sitting down with Whitney Museum leadership to start the bargaining process. Celebrations ahead!”
A musuem spokesperson also released a statement after the vote, saying:
“We welcome the opportunity to develop a constructive working relationship with Local 2110, as we have done with the other unions already in place at the Whitney, and will work in good faith with Local 2110 throughout the collective bargaining process.”
The wave of unionizing in the art world began in 2019 when workers at the New Museum successfully formed a union. This emphasized the need for unionizing at other museums, and soon Guggenheim Museum and Hispanic Museum followed suit. After the success at Whitney, the focus will be shifted towards the ongoing unionizing efforts at Brooklyn Museum.