Whitney Museum Workers

Negotiate First Union Contract

By: - Mar 06, 2023

After more than a year of bargaining, the Whitney Museum Union of Local 2110 UAW have reached a tentative agreement with the Museum on a first union contract.

 The three and a half year Agreement will increase employee wages retroactively to January 1 by fifteen percent (15%) on average with additional increases of nine and a half percent during the contract. Employees will also receive a thousand dollar ratification bonus. 

 “We’re thrilled to have reached an agreement with the Museum that raises minimum pay rates across the board at every employee level,” said Ramsay Kolber, a curatorial research associate who was part of the Union Bargaining Committee. “The contract also has wage increases that will continue to lift salaries even higher over the next two years.”

 The new contract contains 27 provisions covering wages, benefits, paid time off, layoff protection, health and safety provisions, differential pay for hazardous work and temporary assignments, flexible hours, restrictions on the Museum’s use of non-union temporary employees and more. For a summary of the major terms of the contract, see HERE

 “We’re glad that we have worked out provisions that give us basic protection and rights at the Museum and put up some guard rails where needed,” said Graham Miles, a Bargaining Committee member in Exhibitions who has worked at the Whitney for over twenty years. “Through the process of unionization and negotiations, we have been able to engage the museum on issues of fairness and equity and in so doing, have fostered a real sense of community and purpose.”

 “I love working at the Whitney but as a Front of House staff member, we had some of the lowest pay and most difficult conditions. This contract will raise starting rates for entry level positions by over 30%,” said Derrick Charles, who works in Visitor and Member Services and is on the Union Bargaining Committee. “We’re looking forward to working with Museum representatives on some of the health and safety issues that Front of House and Facilities staff have to deal with.”  

 “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 Whitney and a Bargaining Committee member. ”This contract will establish strong employee rights, museum management accountability and an option for a career growth.”

 “We’re excited to have a contract that recognizes our contribution to the Museum,” said Sandy LaPorte, a Facilities Supervisor. “We work out of the limelight and have sometimes felt underappreciated and unheard. With this contract, our jobs are protected and we have a voice at the Museum.”

 In addition to the contract, the parties have also agreed to settle unit clarification proceedings at the National Labor Relations Board. The Museum had challenged the inclusion in the bargaining unit of 49 mostly professional and higher level administrative positions. The parties have now agreed that all but seven of these positions will be included and covered by the new contract.

 “As a curatorial project employee who has worked at the Whitney for five years, I am heartened that this contract ensures that so many staff, including those hired on temporary or grant-funded projects, will be protected by our contract with a path to longer term employment,” Kolber added. “Unionization in our field is a way to make long term careers in museums more sustainable and equitable.” 

 “Coming together with my colleagues from across the Museum over more than a year of negotiations has shown me how strong we are when we act collectively,” said Erika Wentworth, a Bargaining Committee member in Graphic Design at the Museum. “We’ve won a great contract that raises wages for everyone and includes provisions to protect our work and our voices at the Museum. It’s so exciting to see all of our work pay off in such a major way.”

 Union members are in the process of voting on the contract. Once ratified, the terms of the contract will be implemented and the newly formed union will elect union stewards and become official members of Local 2110 of the UAW.  Local 2110 has long represented employees at the Museum of Modern Art, the New-York Historical Society and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and recently won first contracts at the MFA, Boston and Mass MoCA. The Local is currently in negotiations for other initial union contracts at the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hispanic Society, the Jewish Museum and the Dia Foundation of the Arts.