The Brooklyn Museum Union Protest During VIP Artists Ball

The Brooklyn Museum Union Gathered on Wednesday Outside of the Museum to Speak About Working Conditions, During VIP Artists Ball.

Apr 27, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum


The Brooklyn Museum union isn’t satisfied with working conditions at the museum. Because of this, the employees decided to unionize – in order to be heard as one. The unionization process started in 2021, and negotiations began in 2022. Employees are asking for better working conditions, better health care, pay… But, it seems like the museum is stalling and does not really want to cooperate with its workers.


“The Brooklyn Museum wants to weaken our union” – The Union

The Brooklyn Museum
Member of the Brooklyn Museum union and their supporters picket the Artists Ball. TESSA SOLOMON/ARTNEWS


Many organizations unionized: Technical, Office, and Professional Union, Local 2110, part of the United Automobile Workers union. They represent employees from many museums. Those are the Museum of Modern Art, The Bronx Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and others. Information released by the union says the museum has not introduced any economic changes since 2020. The epidemic brought inflation and increased rents, while wages remained the same.


In just over two years of negotiations, there has been progress only in terms of health insurance. The museum is not taking adequate steps on economic issues. Carmen Hermo,  over five-year museum’s contents veteran and associate curator of feminist art spoke about this matter. The Union wants the salary to increase by 16.25 percent in the space of 3 to 5 years. Also, they are looking for better security and higher earnings for those who work part-time.


Cultural Workers Protest
Members of the Whitney Museum Union rallied outside the museum on 17 May 2022


In the contract, the museum presented information about a 9 percent increase in wages. Workers and union representatives say that this is significantly less than what other art institutions decided to give. “The Museum is reducing union positions and creating higher paid positions that it refuses to include in our union. These are obvious attempts to undercut our bargaining power and weaken our union”, the union wrote.

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The Union Negotiators Returned to the Table Today

The Isles at Port-Villez, Claude Monet, 1897, via Brooklyn Museum


The representatives of the museum declared that they respect the right of their workers to peaceful protest, as well as that they want to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Given that the museum is known for hosting VIP parties, unions often protest at these evenings. But they clearly emphasize that their protest is aimed at the management of the museum, not the artists or the guests.


There were also no resentments directed at the honoree, renowned photographer Carrie Mae Weems. Instead, union members thought that the artists would respect their struggle for a fair workplace. Owen O’Brien, head of individual giving and initiatives at the museum, brought up the fact that Weems had previously participated in the labor movement as a union leader.


plum estate kameido
Plum Estate, Kameido from One Hundred Views of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857, via The Brooklyn Museum


“We hope that this [protest] will open some of the eyes of the artists here. Wages are stagnant, and that even though we all love working here, we love art—people are frustrated”, O’Brien said. The union negotiators returned to the table today, with the aim to reach a contract as colleagues at other New York institutions recently have.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.