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In Surprising Development, MOCA LA Voluntarily Recognizes Employee Union

The Museum of Contemporary Art (via Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES — In a surprising development, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s leadership has decided to voluntarily recognize a union comprised of the majority of its employees, according to a museum statement released Friday afternoon.

“We have spent the last two weeks thoroughly considering the staff’s initiative through the lens of MOCA’s vision of being a civic-minded institution,” said MOCA Director Klaus Biesenbach in the statement, “and we concluded that we want to be supportive of this effort.”

This decision comes two weeks after dozens of museum workers across several departments arrived at Biesenbach’s office to formally declare their intention to form a union with the American Federation of State, Federal and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). “We do not believe that this union is in the best interest of our employees or the museum,” read a statement issued by the museum at the time.

Employees cited low wages, lack of benefits, schedule instability, and high turnover as reasons behind their decision to unionize. Their announcement came just weeks after workers at the Marciano Art Foundation tried to unionize, a decision which was followed by massive layoffs and the permanent shuttering of the institution, which was also officially announced on Friday afternoon.

MOCA’s announcement means that staff members will not have to participate in a formal National Labor Relations Board election. Instead, a state representative will conduct a “card check” to ensure that a majority of workers have signed union cards, which will be followed by contract negotiations. This will make MOCA only the second museum in Los Angeles after the Museum of Tolerance to have a union.

“What workers wanted was to be respected and have transparency,” Lylwyn Esangga, an Organizing Director at AFSCME, told Hyperallergic. “This is a great step forward for the community and the workers.”