Following two rounds of layoffs and furloughs, the New Museum Union has filed charges against its employer with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The union alleges that the institution violated the National Labor Relations Act when it let members of the bargaining unit go. The 1935 law grants private employees the right to organize and collectively bargain.
The unit called the layoffs and furloughs a “discriminatory and retaliatory act” in a statement shared today by its Twitter account. “The New Museum laid off our entire steward committee and laid off or furloughed our entire bargaining committee [plus] other union supporters—continuing the hostility they’ve shown us since we organized in January 2019.”
The members of the unit also claim the museum withheld information about its reopening plans—information, it argues, that is pertinent to bargaining under the law.
The issue is now under review by the NLRB.
“The complaint with the NLRB was made three weeks ago after we had to make painful staff reductions,” a representative from the New Museum said in a statement to Artnet News. “We don’t believe this charge has merit.”
“We also remain proud of the collective bargaining agreement we reached last October with local 2110, and continue to honor the union contract, even at times exceeding some of the terms of that agreement,” the statement continued.
In April, the New Museum furloughed 41 full- and part-time members of its staff of roughly 150 workers, many of whom were union members. On July 1, the institution laid off 18 of those furloughed employees for good, including 11 who belonged to the union. In total, 16 New Museum Union members have been laid off since the onset of the pandemic.
Last week, the museum announced plans to rehire the 23 furloughed workers that weren’t let go and expanded healthcare benefits to all regular employees who work at least 20 hours a week. But the union pushed back on the notion that this move could be seen as a victory for its members.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before the [New Museum] started co-opting our union wins for their PR but this is appalling,” the union wrote on Twitter in regard to Artnet News’s own article that characterized the rehirings as a “bright spot amid ongoing job cuts at museums across the country.”
“We’re also happy that the museum is now bringing the remaining furloughed employees back to work, as we’ve encouraged them to do in several effects bargaining meetings over the past few months,” a representative for the union told Artnet at the time, before issuing a qualification: “the layoffs disproportionately targeted unionized and other low-paid workers at the museum.”
“We’ve had productive meetings with the union over the past several weeks regarding reopening guidelines and health and safety protocols,” the museum representative said. “Today, we have 21 full- and part-time staff members and 33 seasonal staff members in the union, and we look forward to continuing a cooperative dialogue.”