Today, 31 May 2018, New York’s Museum of Modern Art hosts its annual gala, the ‘Party in the Garden’ fundraiser. But as guests arrive this year, they will be met with a protest organized by museum staff, dubbed ‘Party on the Pavement’, which will take place outside. The union of museum staff, MoMA Local 2110, which includes MoMA curators, librarians, archivists, editors, retail staff and other employees, want to highlight what they see as problematic contract changes, and an impasse in negotiations with the museum.
Among several claims, the union says that the museum is taking on temporary, non-unionized labour, staff are increasingly required to work unpaid overtime and the museum’s contributions to medical expenses is insufficient. They allege that the museum is looking to remove a seniority ‘step increases’ programme, which gives raises to staff who have been with the institution for certain periods of time. And the union also claims that the museum is refusing to negotiate over job security for curatorial assistants.
In a set of Instagram posts, the union says: ‘We deserve a fair contract, and we want the museum to hear about it! If you love MoMA and modern art, if you care about labour and social justice, or if you just want to spend an hour or two fighting for something good with an amazing bunch of people, please join us in getting the message to MoMA’. Cocktail attire is encouraged for protesters, the union adds. ‘A wealthy institution like MoMA, long allied with the progressive values of modern and contemporary artists, should not be creating an underclass among its employees.’
A museum spokesperson told frieze: ‘MoMA’s extraordinary staff are the best in the world. We are committed to working with the Local 2110 to reach an agreement that will keep our community of dedicated staff and the museum on a path of financial stability and future growth.’
Don’t miss Miya Tokumitsu writing for us last year, on the demand for workers in the arts to ‘work for the love of it’, and the ways in which the art world has deliberately blurred passion with professionalism.