MoMA PS1 Workers Urge Director Connie Butler to “Settle a Fair Contract”

Dozens of unionized cultural workers rallied outside MoMA PS1 in Long Island City last week to demand that the museum’s new Director Connie Butler support staff calls for better wages and health benefits. 

Led by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 (IUOE Local 30), the labor organization representing installation, maintenance, and visitor engagement workers in ongoing contract negotiations with MoMA PS1 leadership, the action took place outside the museum’s main entrance on Jackson Avenue. A parked truck blasted rock music and displayed flashing graphics on a digital billboard, including blown-up images of Butler, who came to the New York institution in September from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, next to text that read, “Director Butler: Support your employees and settle a fair contract now!”

The demonstration gathered approximately 75 people, beginning at around 5:30pm on Friday, February 23 — mere hours before the institution’s Night at the Museum event celebrating Rirkrit Tiravanija’s current exhibition, A Lot of People

MoMA PS1 has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.

Since IUOE Local 30’s contract with MoMA PS1 expired in November 2023, unionized staff have had at least six negotiation meetings with museum leadership, primarily focusing on advocating for higher pay and improved healthcare coverage. Jose Paz, a full-time technician who has been working at the museum for almost 20 years, told Hyperallergic that some maintenance workers are earning as little as $19.50 an hour — above NYC’s minimum wage but below the living wage as calculated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The message we are receiving from museum leadership is that the museum’s economic outlook is dire and there is little room to increase wages and benefits,” Sean Brown, a business representative for IUOE Local 30, told Hyperallergic. But despite these claims, Brown pointed out that in recent months the museum has recovered a majority of managerial positions to pre-pandemic levels while continuing to upgrade equipment and plan future programming.

“These are all good things, and we are in favor and excited for all these events and installations, but this growth and expansion is in direct opposition to the claims of PS1 leadership that the museum is facing economic hardship,” Brown said.

“Director Connie Butler has not participated in these bargaining sessions, but we need her to intervene and advocate for the Local 30 members who work at PS1,” he said.

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