Dia Workers Unionize | The Highlands Current

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Nearly unanimous vote to join UAW affiliate

More than 90 percent of workers at Dia:Beacon and the other Dia Art Foundation showrooms voted Sept. 13 to join Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers’ Technical, Office and Professional Union as part of a wave of organizing art organizations.

Just six of the 107 employees who took part in the vote voted against joining Local 2110, two months after organizers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election. Eligible voters included curators, gallery staff and managers working at the foundation’s locations in Beacon, New York City, Long Island and New Mexico.

The organizing effort began earlier this year, fueled by a desire for higher pay, perks for more employees and more opportunities for gallery attendants, security guards and other public-facing workers to advance into administrative jobs, said Vernon Byron, who has been with Dia:Beacon for nearly 10 years years as a guardian and companion.

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“It’s time,” he said. “It’s important to create opportunities to preserve the things we enjoy about work and try to expand on other things that we want work to morph into.”

Dia, which recently raised its minimum wage by $1 to $16 an hour, did not resist the effort. A representative said Tuesday (September 20) that the organization “respects the decision of our employees to unionize and we look forward to working constructively and openly with Local 2110.”

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The next step for staff is to select members for a negotiation committee and come up with proposals to present to the foundation, said Maida Rosenstein, Local 2110’s president, who described the outcome of the election as “extremely gratifying.”

“We look forward to developing a productive collective bargaining relationship with Dia,” Rosenstein said.

Local 2110 UAW also represents employees of the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum.

At the Guggenheim, art dealers, maintenance workers, and other employees voted to join Local 2110 in 2019. They were joined by restorers and curators in October. Brooklyn Museum staff voted to join in August 2021.

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More recently, in May, educators, teachers and other employees at the American Museum of Natural History voted to have the AFL-CIO District Council 37 represent them in labor negotiations.

But relations between some museum administrators and their staff have soured after negotiations began over pay and benefits.

In August, unionized workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing management of “maliciously bargaining” and replacing full-time workers with temporary workers to dilute the union’s size. The union, which has been negotiating a new contract since it was formed in 2020, went on a one-day strike on September 17.

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