“[The junior curators] work extremely hard, they don’t get any overtime, they work long hours in the slim hope that they’ll get promoted, and then MoMA boots them out,” Rosenstein said. “It’s a very exploitative situation.”
The current expansion and renovation project, which kicked off in February 2016 and is due to be completed next year, will open with an ambitious rehang
of MoMA’s permanent collection to fill the entire museum. Galleries will extend into the
-designed skyscraper that has risen immediately to the west of MoMA’s longtime home, making for a total of 175,000 square feet of gallery space (up from 135,000 square feet pre-expansion, contributing to a 30 percent increase). The expansion will also increase the museum’s public space from 87,000 square feet to 109,000 square feet.
As talks with the museum have stalled, the workers have been taking their plight to its patrons, public, and other employees. On May 21st
, many of them wore bright-blue shirts emblazoned with the words “We Deserve Fair Contracts” to a staff dinner in the museum’s sculpture garden. On May 31st, they demonstrated
outside the museum’s major spring benefit gala, the Party in the Garden, brandishing signs with slogans including “Invest in People, Not in Real Estate” and “Shiny New Building, Shabby Old Wages.” They have also targeted specific VIP and member events, including the recent opening
of the exhibition “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980.” And every Friday, union members have handed out flyers to visitors waiting in line to enter the museum during its weekly admission-free hours.
“The public has been wonderfully receptive to the leafleters outside the Museum, and during events—often stopping to talk with the employees who distribute the leaflets,” said Danny Fermon, a librarian who has worked at the museum since 1971 and is a member of Local 2110’s negotiating committee. “We’ve heard about at least one person who brought up the failure to come to a contract agreement in a public event chaired by [MoMA director] Glenn Lowry…so it’s gradually coming out there to the MoMA-going public.”
The main contract items at issue in the negotiations include the museum’s attempts to do away with or reduce step increases. This system, introduced more than two decades ago, ensures that employees are making a certain percentage more than the minimum salary for their title. Another benefit at stake is the museum’s system of healthcare reimbursement accounts, which are currently available to all of the lowest-paid employees in the union, half of the mid-range union employees, and none of those making over $75,000, according to Local 2110’s most recent contract
; the union would like to see those accounts made available to all union workers.