BY JEFFREY HARRELL
It wasn’t art that drew a crowd outside MoMA
PS1 in Long Island City on a recent Sunday.
Hardscrabble union members wearing
leather jackets, emblazoned with the Inter-national
Union of Operating Engineers insignia,
gathered on Nov. 18 with smartly dressed art
installers beneath a giant inflatable rat — drawing
nervous laughter from museum-goers, some of
whom thought it was part of an exhibit.
But the rat wasn’t part of an installation; it was
a message of defiance to management.
The protesters are all members of the Interna-tional
Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local
30, and they convened to demand higher wages for
art installers and the maintenance crew of MoMA
PS1. The workers at the satellite campus of the
Museum of Modern Art’s main building in Manhattan
are renegotiating their contract with management
and are demanding higher pay.
Tensions have been rising over the last few
years as the museum has hired multiple contrac-tors
from outside the union to do installation work,
explained Chris Haag, a 35-year-old shop steward
at MoMA PS1.
Local 30 has filed multiple grievances over this
practice in the past year, citing violations of its
collective bargaining agreement with the museum.
After “strained” negotiations with management,
Haag said, the workers decided to make a show
of force outside the museum to try and push
“The workers of PS1 MoMA are fighting for a
fair contract,” one union member on a bullhorn
blared at museum visitors. “When you go in there,
let them know that you support the workers of
Installers at the museum receive wages at three
different rates, explained Bob Wilson, business
representative of Local 30, all between $20 and
$30 an hour. With the highest wages at MoMA’s
Midtown museum reaching $47 an hour, Local 30
is asking for all installers’ wages to rise to between
$30 and $40 an hour.
24 DECEMBER 2018 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
“We’re demanding parity with the sister museum,”
said Wilson. “These workers are paid less than
The worst-paid installers at PS1 make 56 per-cent
less than their counterparts in Manhattan,
who support the union action, according to Wilson.
Local 30 is urging supporters to contact Jose
Ortiz, the chief operating officer of PS1 MoMA.
Ruiz did not return calls for comment, but the mu-seum
did offer a statement saying, “MoMA PS1 has
a terrific team of installation and maintenance staff,
and we are committed to reaching a new contract
with Local 30. We continue to make progress in
negotiations, and have our next session scheduled
for later this month. It’s been a productive process and
we’re confident we’ll arrive at an amicable resolution.”
The union has met with management five times
in the last few months to negotiate a new contract
and has not yet reached an agreement.
Art installation is temporary work, but crucial
to the museum, which does not hold a permanent
collection and relies on seasonally changing ex-hibitions
to fill its gallery spaces. As part-time
workers, the installers at MoMA PS1 lack benefits,
job security or paid vacation time.
For installers like Haag, this means choosing
between a job he loves and making ends meet.
“Many of us are forced to take other jobs, that
sometimes interfere with being able to do work at
the museum,” he said. “We want to continue to thrive
in New York City, and right now that’s not possible.”
Photos by Jeffrey Harrell
ART INSTALLERS RALLY
OUTSIDE MUSEUM IN LONG ISLAND CITY
DEMANDING A FAIR CONTRACT