Employees of the Shed seek unionization

Employees of the Shed seek unionization
The Shed, part of Hudson Yards in New York City, where workers are seeking unionization. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
Leading lights

Less than a year ago, New York City’s Hudson Yards opened to the public, attracting tourists and locals alike. Besides retail and restaurant attractions were art ventures, like Snarkitecture’s exhibition space, and architectural novelties, like Heatherwick Studio’s massive marvel named Vessel, which consists of a MC Escher-like design. In addition to these was the Shed, which sought to provide multidisciplinary performance and exhibition space to encourage the growth of the arts.

Now, following the lead of a number of other entities, employees of The Shed are looking to unionize. As of January 8th, front of house staff’s intent to seek unionization was confirmed by Maida Rosenstein, president of the Local 2110 United Auto Workers, according to Hyperallergic. Their choice to seek unionization follows closely in the steps of museum employees from a plethora of museums. Most recently, staff of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art announced that employees would band together in a similar fashion, with the support of the museum.

On Monday, the petition to unionize was officially filed with the National Labor Relations Board and workers hope to see an election as soon as possible. In addition to front of house staff, ushers, gallery attendants, ticket collectors, and other part-time employees in the Visitor Experience Associates department were among those pushing for unionization. ‘What led us to ultimately organize and mobilize,’ Visitor Experience Associate at the Shed, JP Diaz, told Hyperallergic, ‘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.’

In response to the motion, a spokesperson for the Shed stated: ‘We respect workers’ rights and, above all else, we value our incredibly talented and hard-working staff. Whatever the outcome, we will support our employees in their decision on this matter.’

If the Shed’s employees are successful in forming a union, they will join other New York institutions, like the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the New Museum, whose workers have taken similar action over the last year. The Shed has been controversial since its opening. Architectural works, like the Vessel, have been praised and criticized. The Shed received critical attention when Stephen Ross, a real estate developer and one of the Shed’s board members, held a fundraiser in support of president Donald Trump.

‘Our job,’ continued Diaz, ‘is much more than just telling you where to go or what not to touch. It ultimately makes up that institution’s identity. We want to make sure our hard work and labor is properly recognized.’