Dia Art Foundation workers seek a union
About 135 part-time and full-time Dia Art Foundation workers applied to unionize with UAW Local 2110 on Friday, July 15. Their organizing efforts are the latest in a wave that has swept through cultural institutions across the country, along with recent labor developments. at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Dia has eight permanent outposts across the United States and Germany, with its largest site in Beacon, New York, employing 105 of the foundation’s 175 workers. The opening of this site in 2003 in a former factory helped make the riverside town a popular arts destination and weekend getaway for New Yorkers, with nearby sites such as the Storm King Sculpture Park Art Center.
The requesting employees work at Beacon as well as Dia sites in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Bridgehampton on Long Island, and New Mexico, the last of which involves a small outpost that features a site-specific installation by Walter De Maria. called “The Lightning Field”. (1977).
In their decision to unionize, the workers cited lack of recognition, job insecurity and low wages: According to a UAW press release, gallery attendants at the Dia’s Beacon space were paid a maximum of $15.30 an hour until this month, when the foundation increased their pay. minimum wage at $16. (A Dia spokesperson told Hyperallergic that $15 an hour is the minimum, with some older employees earning more.)
“We just got a $1 raise, but that still leaves us below the living wage for a single person in Dutchess County,” Joel Olzak, a Beacon space gallerist, said in a statement. .
“How can Dia, with her prestigious board and reputation, justify paying us so much less than a living wage?” Olzak added. “The Dia development in Beacon has actually driven up the cost of housing here. Most of us can’t afford to live in the area without Dia’s wages.
Petitioning to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the first step on the road to negotiating a union contract. Once the petition is accepted, the NLRB will hold an election to determine if Dia workers wish to be represented by the union. If workers vote to unionize, UAW 2110 and Dia management will negotiate a union contract, a process that takes more than a year on average.
“As workers at an institution committed to thoughtful and deliberate support for artists over the long term, we envision a Dia that demonstrates the same degree of care and support to the staff who maintain and animate its sites, venues and its lineup,” read a post on Dia Union’s new Instagram page.
In a statement sent to Hyperallergic, a spokesperson for the foundation said, “Dia supports our staff’s willingness to consider and evaluate union representation. We remain committed to supporting all staff and will work openly and cooperatively throughout this process.
Organizing efforts have swept through arts institutions and the country as a whole. As of May 25, the number of labor petitions filed in fiscal year 2022 exceeded the total number filed in all of fiscal year 2021, and by the end of June, the total number of petitions had increased by 58. % compared to the same period last year.
“I work in arts education because I believe museums can be sites of transformative learning opportunities,” said Alex Vargo, an employee in Dia’s learning and engagement department for seven years. “All Dia workers help make art accessible to the public, and unionization recognizes the importance of our contributions and gives staff a greater collective voice to shape Dia’s future.”