Solidarity Wins! Frieze New York Goes Union

For Immediate Release
Contact: owsartsandlabor@gmail.com

Unions, including Teamsters Joint Council 16 and IATSE, reached an agreement with Frieze New York regarding its hiring practices. This year, the art fair will hire some union labor to construct the fair’s tent on Randall’s Island. Starting in 2015, Frieze New York has committed to hiring 100% union labor. We applaud Frieze’s effort in supporting fair labor practices and its long-term commitment to set an example for the rest of the industry.

Arts & Labor has stood in solidarity with the unions throughout this effort. Our tactics have included a series of direct actions both inside and outside the fair, a letter writing campaign, and the raising of awareness via social media. We also want to acknowledge the vital support of artists Suzanne Lacy and Andrea Bowers, curator Nato Thompson, and many others. We thank everyone who put their reputation on the line to create room for discussion when there was none and who created a platform for workers to speak up. We celebrate this victory as a step in the right direction toward a more just art industry and see it as an effective demonstration of the impact of solidarity networks.

While this as an essential step, we know it is not enough. There will still be many art workers who will be paid poorly and treated unfairly during the time that Frieze New York is in our city. We hope that this victory provides inspiration for all of us to continue to fight for better working conditions. For Arts & Labor, this emboldens us for the work ahead and in our goal of ending exploitation for all art workers.

The fact remains that the Frieze New York art fair is a for-profit, multimillion-dollar enterprise that takes place on city parkland surrounded by residential areas with household incomes that are less than half of the citywide median. We believe that Frieze has a responsibility to give back to our city in exchange for generating vast amounts of wealth that only benefits the very wealthiest collectors and investors on public park land. We will continue to engage Frieze in conversation about how they might redress the impact of their presence and contribute to the city beyond the false, “trickle-down” paradigm of tourist-oriented economic development.

In that spirit, Arts & Labor would like to invite you to our next public meeting for a full report back on this campaign and a discussion of where to go from here.

Join us!
Tuesday, April 15 , 7-9pm
33 W 14th Street (Basement), Manhattan

* Additionally, workers from Utrecht Art Supplies who recently voted to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union will also share their journey to victory.

Organizing for Frieze NY 2014

It’s that time of year again. The great white spaceship of an art fair, Frieze NY, prepares for its descent on Randall’s Island, bringing with it some of the biggest galleries and richest collectors from around the world.

Last year, Arts & Labor launched a campaign in solidarity with Teamsters Joint Council 16, IATSE Local 829, IATSE Local 1 and District Council 9 of Painters to demand that Frieze hire union and local labor in the construction of its tent. We continue to organize as a coalition around these demands.

In 2014, Arts & Labor will continue to advocate for union jobs and against exploitative conditions for all art workers at the fair. Arts & Labor also demands that Frieze NY, a multimillion dollar operation held in a public park, support the surrounding neighborhood-based arts communities.

SOME FACTS ABOUT FRIEZE & RANDALL’S ISLAND
• Last year Frieze hired the company Production Glue to construct its massive tent. Production Glue refused to hire local and union, and instead brought in workers from as far away as Wisconsin, paying them a fraction of the wages that NYC workers receive.
• Frieze takes place on public park land and pays less than $1/square foot (this may be the cheapest rent in all of NYC)
• Frieze is inaccessible for many New Yorkers with its ticket prices of $44/person.
• Randall’s Island is managed by a public-private partnership called the “Randall’s Island Park Alliance” (RIPA)
• There is a longstanding fight against privatization and to keep Randall’s Island accessible to the surrounding neighborhoods of East Harlem and the South Bronx. There is a comprehensive of this history on East Harlem Preservation’s website.

Arts & Labor 2013 Actions
April 17, 2013: Arts & Labor issues a statement of support to Teamsters Joint Council 16, IATSE Local 829, IATSE Local 1 and District Council 9 of Painters to demand that Frieze hire union and local labor.
May 1, 2013: Arts & Labor storms the Frieze office on Mayday with a marching band demanding that Frieze negotiate with the unions (unfortunately due to the high-stress nature of this action there was no documentation!)
May 2, 2013: Arts & Labor participates in a public hearing about the Frieze Art Fair in front of city council.
May 5, 2013: Arts & Labor renames Frieze NY, Frieze NY RAT FAIR
May 6, 2013: Arts & Labor issues a letter to panelists speaking at the Frieze NY Art Fair and to participating artists, galleries and attendees. A number of participating artists and members of the public contacted the Frieze organizers to demand fair pay and union jobs at the event.
May 10, 2013: Arts & Labor & The Teamsters speak on Suzanne Lacy and Nato Thompson panel. The Teamsters are not allowed to speak at the last minute, and Arts & Labor reads statement for them (view raw footage here and skip to 15:40).
May 11, 2013: Arts & Labor does a series of direct actions inside the fair that include rat masks, flyers, air horns and mic checks  to inform the public and participating galleries about conditions at the fair. (photos below)

Art Worker Survey 2014

ART WORKER SURVEY 2014
HAPPY HOUR  & LAUNCH PARTY
This Thursday, January 30, 6 – 8 pm

THE HALF KING, 505 West 23rd Street, New York

Arts & Labor has joined forces with the students and faculty at CUNY’s Murphy Institute to gather data on the working conditions of art workers in New York City. Join us to unwind after a long day of work, and enjoy a free drink from filling in the survey.

For more information, visit artsandlabor.org/artworkersurvey.
Feel free to email us with any questions: artsandlaborsurvey@gmail.com.
RSVP is helpful but not required.

Screening and Discussion: Detroit, a City in Transformation

January 22, 7:30 pm at the Brecht Forum

Brooklyn Commons 388 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn

Join Arts and Labor Alternative Economies for a Screening of Paper Tiger Television‘s Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation followed by round table discussion with
Matt Birkhold
Executive Director at The Brecht Forum, Co-founder at Growing Roots, National Organizing Committee at James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
Amaka Okechukwu
Co-founder of Growing Roots, and Doctoral Candidate of Sociology at New York University
Reg Flowers
Actor, Producer, Director, Playwright, Co-learning Facilitator, Grassroots Organizer

Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation
From food deserts, to the plans to “rightsize” the city, how are Detroiters responding to the localized failures of post-industrial global capitalism? How are they re-mediating the frontier mythologies perpetuated by the mainstream media that complement “creative class” policy promotion? With a critical lens on race and class dynamics, this documentary weaves together segments on Detroit’s labor history, the budding urban agriculture movement, a critical look at philanthro-capitalism and its relationship to redevelopment as well as media (mis)representations of a city in transformation.

Letter in Support of Embros from Arts & Labor Alternative Economies November 12, 2013, New York

We stand in solidarity with the Embros Theater community and condemn the persecution of the two performers arrested for rehearsing in the theater on October 31, 2013.  All charges brought against these individuals should be dropped and their court cases should be dismissed. [1]

The work that is currently being done at Embros embodies some of the most fundamental aspects of fostering a creative and responsive cultural space in which alternatives to the current system can be explored [2]. In this time of urgency and economic crisis around the world, Embros is forging new directions that should be enthusiastically supported and celebrated by the local and national government rather than aggressively repressed and threatened.

Culture is a basic sign of being alive, a space of reflection and growth, and most importantly it is the place where the processes that define democracy such as freedom of speech, expression, and criticality, is apparent in more ways than a set of law books can ever describe.  Governments from Russia to China, United States and Europe [3] seek to crush within its citizens the freedom of cultural expression. It has become apparent that the democratic, life-expressing aspects of art are being systematically repressed and commodified into pure spectacle and entertainment by these governments, institutional bureaucrats, and their capitalist cohorts. We will not stand-by as they reduce culture to an admission fee, VIP bonus, or something you can buy at the gift shop. We wish to dance, to perform, to visualize, to speak, all without being restricted by the amount of money we have or the so-called credentials and permits that these institutions have invented. Because for us, this is true freedom, this is true a democracy that no currency can equate.

Embros provides much needed free and open community space and brings people from all walks of life together to learn, engage, and create. Therefore, we ask artists and communities around the world to look closely and continue to follow these events as you would a canary in a coal mine, so that we may provide support for artists and cultural spaces when similar events that arise. Furthermore, these instances should provide a lens to reflect on the situation in our cities and to better understand the mechanisms of cultural control, repression, cooptation, and exploitation so that we can continue, through this solidarity network, to expose and ultimately overcome this political, economic, and cultural crises that has become the marker of our times.

Arts and Labor Alternative Economies Members

Maria Juliana Byck, Emily Baierl, Antonio Serna and Laurel Ptak
- – - -

[1] Communique from Embros on the Arrest of 2 performers. October 30, 2013

[2] On October 19, 2013, as part of ‘What Do We Do Now?’ the first annual Alternatives Fair in New York City, we invited members of Embros Theater to participate in an international panel on autonomous spaces. Through this panel we hoped to learn how autonomously run cultural spaces function to provide a more horizontal way to operate while remaining inclusive to all members in the community. From this exchange we learned how Embros’ organizing by way of a weekly general assembly has become a dynamic and invaluable community-run space in which creativity and innovation is encouraged to thrive.

‘What Do We Do Now? Alternative Fair’ was organized by Alternative Economies, a subgroup of OWS Arts and Labor. Alternative Economies working group explores alternative methods of sustaining the livelihood of artists, art-workers, and other communities interested in alternatives to the current system. We view the concept of labor through the lenses of time, choice, and value, and we research the ways that ideas like the commons, solidarity economies, precarious worker centers, and participatory budgeting can nurture more sustainable art worlds. Believing that vibrant creative communities come from the bottom up, we encourage relationships based on mutual aid rather than competition, and we advocate for cultural institutions rooted in a framework of social, economic, and environmental justice.

[3] Links to similar crack down on autonomous cultural spaces and artists:

ZAM is Culture, Eviction of ZAM by Milan Police, May 2013

Footage of Police Eviction of ZAM w/ minute by minute account, May 2013

Extreme show of force by of Swiss police at Basel, May 2013

“Art Makes Money” Communique from ‘Basel Will Be Occupied’ after the Art Basel raid

NY Police Arrest of artist in Brooklyn for Decorating the Street  “I (heart)nyc” bags, May 2012

Save the Date: Alternatives Fair Oct 18th & 19th

Alternative Economies What Do We Do Now? Alternative Fair Oct 18-19

Save the date!

What Do We Do Now?
Arts & Labor Alternatives Fair

October 18th & 19th
Friday 6-9PM – OPENING EVENTS
Saturday 12-4PM – TABLES + MORE…

EYEBEAM 540 W 21st St, NYC
Free / Wheelchair accessible / Childcare available (please inquire for details)

We are accepting:
-  table reservations for alternative economies related groups
- proposals for workshops, skillshares, presentations, discussions, panels
- facilitators & organizers for an artists/artworker assembly
- & other experimental formats that compliment the fair are welcomed

Email us to get involved! al.altecon@gmail.com 
website: WhatDoWeDoNow.info
facebook invite: What Do We Do Now? Oct 18-19

The latest from A&L’s Intern Labor Rights working group

On June 11, 2013 Federal Judge William Pauley III ruled that former unpaid interns Alexander Footman and Eric Glatt were wrongfully classified during their work on the film Black Swan, and their “employer” Fox Searchlight was in violation of Federal and State minimum wage law:

Check out the post on the Intern Labor Rights site!

Report Back: Another Art World Is Possible Workshop

Alternative Economies Another Art World Is Possible workshop, May 11, 2012 NURTUREart
Arts & Labor’s Alternative Economies Workshop at NURTUREart, Bushwick.

On Saturday, May 11th Alternative Economies facilitated a workshop as part of the “Cashing Out” exhibition curated by Petrushka Bazin Larsen at NUTUREArt in Bushwick.   A diverse group of roughly thirty artists came together to discuss our enchantments and frustrations with the art world as it exists, and to brainstorm how alternative economic models could be applied to the current system, or replace it altogether.

The workshop was structured into two parts.  In the first we listed what we liked and didn’t like about the art world.  Many agreed that we liked art, being artists, and the artist’s lifestyle.  We value the autonomy that being an artist affords, the opportunity to experiment with social forms, and the ability to create new, non-normative identities. On the other hand many expressed frustration with the art world’s exclusivity, it’s lack of transparency, exploitative working conditions, it’s resistance to organization, and it’s competitive individualism. We also disliked our powerlessness in the face of corporate media, and the ways that capital exploits art and artists for it’s own ends, including the use of artists as gentrifiers, and the use of art as a means to create financial gain within speculative markets.

In the second part of the workshop small groups discussed existing alternative economies and how these could be applied to the art world, in our own practices as artists, and to communal life.  Thirty-six ‘stepping-stones’ developed by the Center for Popular Economics were distributed among the groups.  Each ‘stepping-stone’ is a card which summarizes an alternative approach to the economy and gives examples of how it is currently being used in contemporary society.  These cards cover a wide range of examples including: legislative proposals such as the ‘Tobin Tax’ on financial transactions, social movements such as the Zapatistas and Brazilian Landless Workers Movement, co-operative forms such as producers co-ops, land trusts, fair trade and co-housing. The cards also gave examples of labor activist strategies such as worker’s centers and factory take-overs, and forms of communal resource management such as participatory budgeting, creative commons, and common property management, plus many more.

Much enthusiasm was generated as we discussed the possibilities of these new forms of practice and institution building.  The workshop was a great way to introduce ourselves to the range of possibilities that already exist and the implications for art and artists.

Alternative Economies is planning to put new economic models into practice. Anyone who is interested in working on a project that experiments with economic structures should come to our next meeting, Sunday June 30th at noon.  Contact us at al.altecon@gmail.com for more information. Now’s a good time to get involved as we’ll be brainstorming new projects to work on over the next year.