On Tuesday, the Guggenheim Museum disclosed that they have settled an agreement with its employees’ union following over two years of negotiation. The first contract, ratified by nearly 150 curators, conservators, and other staff members connected with the Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers was also announced.
The contract is effective immediately, promising an average raise in salary of 11 percent through the contract duration of two-and-a-half-year, which is scheduled to end on De. 31, 2025. Also outlined in the contract are improved health and retirement benefits, an arbitration process for grievances, and a requirement for fair cause for employee termination.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement,” said Sara Fox, the museum’s communications director in a statement.
The movement towards unionization coincided with one of Guggenheim’s most challenging periods in its eight decades. Employees organized in 2021 when there was significant insecurity surrounding layoffs during the pandemic. Moreover, the organization was grappling with racial issues that resulted in the departure of its chief curator, Nancy Spector.
Two years before, art handlers and maintenance staff had elected to join Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Richard Armstrong, then museum director, voiced his opposition to the union by emailing employees that he believed it could result in daily divisions within the institution. Armstrong retired this year with no named successor yet.
Julie K. Smitka, an associate producer at the museum, expressed her joy at finalizing the contract, describing it as the product of their collective organizing hard work. “We now have rights at work that are legally enforceable,” she added.
The Guggenheim stated that previous wage increases hadn’t been secured over a period of years.
Maida Rosenstein, Local 2110’s director of organizing, remarked in an interview that the contract terms are comparable with those agreed with institutions like the Whitney Museum and the New Museum. However, the duration of coverage is significantly shorter—half of the typical five-year term.
“A shorter first contract is preferable as it presents a base that we can expand on in upcoming negotiations,” explained Alan Seise, a public programs manager and member of the negotiation committee, during a phone interview. “The Guggenheim is experiencing a transitional phase, and I believe the unionization endeavor plays a role in that.”
Staff at Guggenheim Museum Approves Union Contract