Dozens of employees at the New Museum in Manhattan voted on Thursday to join a union, capping a tense few weeks during which museum management had argued that such an action could be detrimental.
The measure to join the national autoworkers union, which represents employees at some other New York City museums, was adopted 38-8, according to Dana Kopel, a senior editor and publications coordinator at the museum.
“We’re so excited about what this means for us as employees and for what it means for the future of the museum,” she said. “This could be a harbinger of really profound change.”
In a written statement Thursday the museum said: “The eligible employees considered the pros and cons of unionization and decided in favor of a union. We respect their decision, and will move forward in good faith.”
The employees announced their intention to unionize on Jan. 10, invoking the spirit of the museum’s founder, Marcia Tucker, who they said had “envisioned an institution that did away with hierarchies.”
They said a union was needed to ensure fair pay and to help clarify the futures of employees as the museum undergoes a planned $85 million expansion.
Museum officials had briefly hired a Kentucky-based company that markets itself as a “team of experienced union avoidance consultants” in an apparent effort to convince the staff that organizing as a bargaining unit was ill-advised. That decision drew a rebuke from dozens of artists, curators and others who wrote an open letter saying they were troubled that a museum that has been known to champion free expression and progressive values had moved to “hire an anti-union firm to sow fear and hostility.”
Those who will be represented by the union include art handlers, associate curators and people who work at the museum’s front desk and in its book and gift shop.
In addition to the votes that were tallied, Ms. Kopel said 10 votes were not counted because of differences between organizers and the museum over whether those workers were eligible to join the union.
Local 2110 of the U.A.W. will negotiate with the museum over including those employees in the bargaining unit, Ms. Kopel said. The museum employs 143 people.
The museum, which focuses on contemporary art by living artists, was founded in 1977.