Hispanic Society Union Ratifies First Contract, Ending Eight-Week Strike

Unionized workers at Manhattan’s Hispanic Society agreed to end an eight-week strike after ratifying a contract agreement on Friday.

“We return to work with our heads held high and with a strong contract,” the union wrote today in an Instagram post. The two-and-half year contract will “raise salaries by over 18%, establish contributions to a new 403(b) plan and preserve fully paid health benefits. The contract also calls for a labor management committee, health and safety protection, severance pay and professional development funds of up to $500 per year per worker.”

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A Hispanic Society representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The strike began in March after a year of stagnant negotiations between the institution’s small staff and administration.

According to the members of the union, who are represented by the local United Auto Workers (UAW) 2110, the contract proposed by administration removed health care coverage and pension fees without an increase in wages to offset the new expenses. The union also said that wages at the Hispanic Society are already lower than those at comparable institutions explicitly because these benefits were offered in employment contracts. 

In the subsequent weeks, the union maintained a picket outside the museum. On April 26, workers even protested outside the home of Philippe de Montebello, the chairman of the Hispanic Society’s board and former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The union sought a 5 percent retroactive wage increase, guaranteed future wage increases, and guaranteed minimum salaries for all union positions, ranging from a $52,000 to $95,000, “depending on the salary grade of the position, and on par with other museums in the city.”

The strike had received support from several elected New York City officials, including city council members Carmen De La Rosa and Shaun Abreu.

On April 28, the Society for Iberian Global Art (formerly the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies) released an open letter directed at the failed negotiations, writing that its community has been “unsettled by a situation that threatens not only the institution and its collection, but the livelihood of our esteemed colleagues and what we consider to be a living landmark of our field.”

The Hispanic Society is home to one of the largest and most precious collections of Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese, and Philippine art and writing in the world. Its holdings contain more than 900 paintings, including masterworks by El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya. The museum building has been closed for a major renovation since 2017. It was set to reopen last month, but construction delays and the strike postponed the reopening indefinitely.

Employees at the Hispanic Society voted in 2021 to join the UAW Local 2110, which also represents employees at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum.

“We are elated about the new contract,” said Patrick Lenaghan, a curator who has worked at the Hispanic Society for 28 years, said in a statement. “It provides the security we never had before. With this, we can concentrate on the work we love and dedicated so many years to.”

Source: artnews.com

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