Employees of the art handling and storage company UOVO are fighting for union recognition. Employees of UOVO, which serves such high caliber clientele as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in addition to galleries and private collectors, announced on Wednesday that they are organizing with Teamsters Local 814, the local union for professional movers and art handlers.
According to Teamsters Joint Council 16, workers at the company’s headquarters in Queens were accompanied by Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar and Local 814 President Jason Ide as they prevented an all-staff meeting that was called with the intention of persuading employees not to unionize. UOVO workers at the company’s Rockland County site donned union buttons in solidarity.
Senator Salazar, who represents Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, where UOVO plans to open a fourth warehouse, said:
A company like UOVO, that counts on doing business with city-funded, pro-union institutions like the Met, and that has asked the city’s tax-payers to help subsidize their expansion into my district, should be expected to treat their workers with respect [. . .] They should recognize their union immediately. If they continue to hold captive audience meetings and engage in anti-union tactics, then I think it’s our obligation as city and state officials to reexamine all of their dealings with public institutions and public funding.
In a statement sent to Artsy, a spokesperson for UOVO said:
UOVO is committed to our team and supports their rights. As industry leaders, we are proud of the unparalleled skill level of our art handlers, and the work they perform with the world's most recognized museums, collectors and institutions. We value our work culture and the direct communication with our colleagues across departments. Ultimately, any decision to introduce third-party representation rests with the affected team members and we will respect their choices.
Momentum has been building around unions and employees’ rights in the art world, and this movement at UOVO comes on the heels of similar fights fought recently at the New Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and MoMA PS1.
Ide added that if UOVO doesn’t recognize the workers’ union and end all anti-union activity, the employees will contact the company’s clients. Ide added:
Something is happening in the art world now. [. . .] Workers are realizing their value and realizing that they have the power to change their situation for the better. That’s why so many art workers are organizing and unionizing. And that’s why we’re so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these workers and help them transform their lives and help transform this industry.
UOVO has responded to Artsy’s request for comment, which this story was revised to incorporate.