Santa Fe, New Mexico, employees of the entertainment company Meow Wolf, which creates immersive art-type installation spaces, have formed a union.
The Meow Wolf Workers Collective, as the group is called, announced plans to align with the Communications Workers of America, which represents telecommunications, education, healthcare, and broadcast and cable television workers, among others.
The Meow Wolf employees are asking company leadership to “collaborate and honor the collective spirit that has made Meow Wolf a success,” in a statement quoted by the .
But the company has already signaled resistance to the idea.
While saying in a statement that the Meow Wolf “recognizes and respects our employees’ right to organize,” the company added: “The policies, practices and culture already in place make our company a great place to work and we value our ability to work directly with employees. As such, we feel Meow Wolf works best without a union.”
If Meow Wolf does not formally acknowledge the union, the National Labor Relations Board requires more than half of the company’s workers vote to organize in a formal election. More than half of Meow Wolf employees have already signed a petition in favor of organizing, according to New Mexico news outlet KOB4.
“We are seeking employment protection,” Bill Rodgers, one of the union’s organizers, told the . “We want to make sure pay is equitable across the board. We want opportunities for career growth so people know where they are with their career.”
The demands listed on the union website, which was launched in February, include “employment protections, equitable pay practices, inclusive opportunities for career growth and creativity, and a diverse workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment of any kind.” It describes labor organization as offering “protection from outsourcing, layoffs, crunch, and other unilateral decisions by management.”
The move comes after the elimination of over half the company’s staff in April after it shuttered its Santa Fe flagship, the House of Eternal Return, due to health concerns. The space, which has yet to reopen, received a $6.6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government.
As non-traditional art-type spaces such as the Museum of Ice Cream and the Color Factory began proliferating across the country, Meow Wolf, which opened its Santa Fe space in 2016, soon announced plans to expand to Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Washington, DC, raising $158 million to open new venues.
But struggles were on the horizon.
“The company grew too big, too fast, without a clear view about what is truly core to us, what core contributions we must make to our projects and how we should organize our projects,” Meow Wolf co-CEO Jim Ward said during a company meeting in April, according to the
Meow Wolf’s explosive growth has led to tension within the one-time art collective that originated the company.
Artist Lauren Adele Oliver sued the company in March, claiming that it violated her copyright for , one of the main attractions at House of Eternal Return.
The lawsuit alleges that Oliver was promised an “artist revenue share,” but that she did not receive her due profits after Meow Wolf became a multi-million dollar operation, even as was featured prominently in merchandise created without her approval.
The company has also settled two discrimination suits filed in 2019 by employees in Santa Fe and Denver.
“Meow Wolf, which believes radical art can change the world, taught us to rethink the way we work together,” the Meow Wolf Workers Collective say in a statement on the union’s website. “Now we ask Meow Wolf to rethink the way it works with us.”