The Whitney Museum and Workers Reached an Agreement

The Whitney Museum and Its Cultural Workers Came to an Agreement After 16 Months of Negotiations Which Led to Ratifying the Contract.

Mar 12, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Whitney Museum
the Whitney Museum of American Art


The Whitney museum came to a mutual agreement with its worker’s union. Overall, workers demanded better working conditions and payment. The fight for improving workers’ rights started in May 2021. When the pandemic happened, The Whitney museum laid off 20% of its workers. Also, most of them worked for less than 20 dollars per hour. The workers needed to take a stand, and it finally paid off.


The Whitney Museum Increases Salaries By 30%

Union supporters brave the cold outside of the Whitney Museum on the night of the biennial’s opening. Photo by Annie Armstrong.


Two years ago, the Whitney’s employees signed a petition to join UAW Local 2110. This organization works in favour of many NY cultural institutions. This includes the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum. Before the pandemic, the museum’s workers weren’t organized. But, circumstances that occurred during the pandemic changed their decision.


During the pandemic, gatherings were prohibited, so the museum had to reduce the number of employees due to lower profits. The Whitney workers are not the only ones. All over the country, workers from many cultural institutions started to organize and protest.  Although the negotiations stalled during the previous years, the Whitney Union finally reached an agreement and ratified the first treaty last week.


A protester outside the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo: Maida Rosenstein.


The most significant part of the contract for workers is a 30 percent salary increase, average. Newly employed workers will also not deprive of higher wages. Their salary was $40,500, and now it will be $54,101. All employees will get thousand dollars to celebrate the contract’s signing. For the following three and a half years, hourly workers’ salaries will rise to $24 per hour from $17, and temporary workers’ pay will also grow. Also, temporary workers will get a chance to become permanent.

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“Underrated, underappreciated — that’s us” – Cultural Worker

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


Ashley Reese, the Whitney’s director of communications said the contract works in the interests of the employees. “We look forward to a longstanding and productive working relationship”, she added. When his union voted to accept the contract, facilities supervisor Sandy LaPorte was deep inside the museum. “Underrated, underappreciated — that’s us”, said LaPorte.


The facilities department was most affected during the previous years. It was especially important for him to recognize his department as valuable. The best way for this is through job safety and compensation, in his opinion. The negotiations reportedly dragged on until one of the museum’s top operations officials, Idehen Aruede, started advocating for the museum.


Perilous Order by Shahzia Sikander, 1997, via Whitney Museum of American Art, New York


“Once he came into negotiations there was a shift in terms of tenor and pace of bargaining”, Ramsay Kolber, a curatorial research associate who served on the bargaining committee said. It seems that all parties are satisfied with the signed contract. “This new contract creates a more just and fair workplace for every employee in the union with real protection and a real means of being heard”, said Denis Suspitsyn, a photographer at the museum, in a statement.

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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.