03/24/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/24/2023 15:46
The staff of the Hispanic Society of America, located at 613 West 155th Street, have authorized a strike after more than a year of negotiations for a union contract. Workers unionized in 2021 after the Board of Trustees of the Society terminated their pension plan while keeping wages stagnant for years.
"The Hispanic Society's offer to us is unfair. We're a small, dedicated staff that has worked under difficult physical conditions with constant staffing shortages," said Javier Milligan, a Librarian. "We've accepted lower wages than we could earn at other institutions because of the benefits. The contract they are offering makes our employment truly unsustainable."
The Hispanic Society is demanding employee payments for health care premiums and deductibles that were previously covered by the Hispanic Society. Workers say that the wage increases offered will not offset the additional cost to benefits. The Union also says that the Society is trying to remove as many positions as possible from union eligibility by threatening to subcontract out positions and by misclassifying positions as temporary. Workers have repeatedly complained about workloads, lack of staffing and concerns about the safety of the collection, which includes masterpieces of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.
"The administration's decisions endanger its priceless treasures from daily handling to long-term planning. The administration has failed to replace key collections care staff such as curators, conservators, and art handlers, placing intolerable stress on the people who safeguard the collection," says Patrick Lenaghan, a curator who has worked at the Hispanic Society for twenty-eight years. "The Society is endangering its own valuable collection: We are severely understaffed and our incredible collection is in jeopardy because of a lack of proper safeguards."
WIthout a fair contract, a strike is expected to begin on Monday morning. Read more here and in The Art Newspaper and Hyperallergic, and contribute to the union's hardship fund here.