The front of house staff of the New York City cultural center The Shed are the latest arts institution workers to attempt to unionize. According to Hyperallergic, the workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday and hope to hold a union election in the near future.
The front of house staff includes gallery guides, ticket takers, and ushers among other part-time workers; the department has roughly 82 employees. The Shed’s staff is working with Local 2110 UAW (United Auto Workers), an amalgamated union which also represents workers at the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, and the Bronx Museum of Arts.
JP Diaz, a visitor experience associate at The Shed, told Hyperallergic:
What led us to ultimately organize and mobilize was the fact that there were things at the Shed that were not to our liking, in the sense that there was a lot of ambiguity regarding policies and expectations, and ultimately the working conditions were not up to par [...] We want to make sure our hard work and labor is properly recognized.
The Shed opened last April and has been embroiled in its fair share of controversy: Its location in the ultra-elite area of Hudson Yards made some critics question its commitment to inclusivity, and its board member Stephen Ross’s support of U.S. President Donald Trump prompted widespread backlash. Artists A.L. Steiner and Zackary Drucker pulled their work from an exhibition at The Shed a day after Ross hosted a fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, while Michael Kors, Vera Wang, and the Academy of Art University all canceled events scheduled to be held there. Ross has subsequently stepped down from The Shed’s board.
The Shed employees’ push to unionize is the latest in a nationwide movement among museum workers. Workers at the Guggenheim Museum and Seattle’s Frye Art Museum formed unions last year, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles recognized its employees’ union in December. Not all museum unionization efforts have proved successful though: L.A.’s Marciano Art Foundation closed days after its employees announced their intention to form a union, prompting a former worker to sue over the mass layoffs.