Brooklyn Museum Agrees to Drop Its Plan to Seek Concessions from Workers

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Brooklyn Museum Local 1502 President Wilson Souffrant discusses an agreement between the union and museum with members at the ratification meeting on Feb. 21. Photo: Michele Trester

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

After intense pressure from the union, the Brooklyn Museum agreed to end a two-year effort to win concessions from its unionized staff.

The agreement includes a one-time bonus for workers at 25 years of service and a no-layoff clause. The museum pledged not to carry out job cuts until the end of the year or when concluding talks on a new collective bargaining pact — whichever is earlier.

“I am happy we managed to stop the talk of layoffs and the museum’s use of part-timers,” said Wilson Souffrant, president of Brooklyn Museum Local 1502. “But this is only the beginning as we move ahead to bargaining on our contract.”

In 2016, during tense discussions with the museum about what it described as a budget crisis, Local 1502 agreed to a one-week unpaid furlough for its members, as well as two buyouts. Then in May 2017 the museum asked for more.

But members became frustrated and angered as the museum continued to seek concessions.

The museum’s demands included layoffs, gutting the contract and creating a second employment tier for part-time workers. The museum hired managers and other non-union staff as it continued its threat of laying off union workers.

Responding to the museum’s rigidness, Local 1502 members decided to carry out a number of in-house actions to protest.

Members wore green bracelets at work in a show of solidarity. Members also carried out a petition campaign.

Non-uniformed members wore union T-shirts during “Spirit Wednesdays.” The presidents of other locals that represent workers at cultural institutions joined Local 1502 at the popular “First Saturday” event in February for another T-shirt protest. Members wore green T-shirts at all-staff meetings where a union representative read a statement, put up posters on bulletin boards.

Mickey Green, the associate director of the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept., said the fight-back led management become more reasonable at the bargaining table.

Both parties agreed to work out a fair agreement to end to the labor-management dispute. Green, Assistant Director Michele Trester and Souffrant headed the union’s negotiating team.

The agreement, which members ratified on Feb. 21, permits the museum to make a few changes to overtime rules and reclassify the Building Custodians title to allow the worker with least seniority to assume some security duties.

Local 1502 represents Clerical Associates, Secretaries, Museum Instructors, Museum Technicians, Museum Attendant Guards, Custodial Assistants, Maintainers and Graphic Artists.

This story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Public Employee Press, the official publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.

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