MoMA Workers Win Contract after 134-Day Strike

Volume C, No. 10October, 2000

Workers at MoMA have scored a huge victory after four months on the picket line. On Sept. 9 they reached an agreement with management and voted to end the strike. Local 802 members played an important role in the struggle, when several bands and individuals refused to cross the museum workers’ picket line.

The new contract calls for an 18 percent wage increase over five years, and promises to call back workers who may be temporarily laid off when the museum closes for a five-year expansion.

UAW Local 2110, which represents the museum workers, also won a “union security” provision, mandating that workers join the union or dues. Management had fought hard against the provision, which has the potential to strengthen and sustain the union.

Another key issue was health coverage. The Museum withdrew its demand for a waiver of bargaining rights over health care and past practice, and agreed that, prior to making any change in the health and welfare program, it must negotiate in good faith with the union.

Local 802 musicians Sean Smith, Wendy Ryan, and Pablo “Chino” Nuñez, and the bands Coco Merenson and the Raymond Scott Orchestrette all honored the picket line at MoMA, adding to the union’s power. In addition, a group of Local 802 members and Juilliard graduates wrote a letter to musicians who were engaged to play in the annual “Summergarden” series presented at the museum. The series was cancelled this year when it became clear that musicians were going to honor the picket line (See July/August Allegro.).

Musicians also took their own initiative to help out. Guitarist Marc Ribot, a member of both Local 802 and the Noise Action Coalition, organized a benefit concert at Tonic on August 30 to raise funds for the museum workers.

MoMA administration also felt heat from many sectors of the community. The museum workers’ union, working with the New York City Central Labor Council and New York State AFL-CIO, got a majority of the City Council’s Manhattan members to hold off on recommending a zoning variance the museum was seeking. And 150 prominent artists, including Robert Rauschenberg and Steven Spielberg, sent a letter to the administration expressing support for the strikers. On Aug. 21, delegates to the New york State AFL-CIO’s convention marched over en masse to join the strikers on the picket lines.