June 5, 2012

Report backs:

  • Summer School: Bryant Park = Super fun
  • Berlin
  • Alt Econ/ Unconference
  • Labor Cluster
  • September 17
  • Barbara Adams invitation
  • Sotheby’s
  • Copenhagen
Arts & Labor meeting June 5, 2012
Washington SquareLS, EG, CK, AS, LB, BW, RH
F: RH Minutes:AS

Group report backs:

Summer School: Bryant Park = Super fun
Police De-escalation
Student Debt Choir
Flash Mob
First 2 hours: March
And then return for Occupy University

Occupy U: Sunday at Noon
National Lawyers Guild Know Your Rights teach-in.  Useful, practical information. How to defend yourself and better understand the law. For instance, if you state that don’t consent being searched, etc.

Occupy Theory: Student Debt: powerful assembly.
Coming out with Debt! Get rid of shame, take pride and organize under it. Bringing the movement with Canada and solidarity across nation. How to make it visible through defaulting, etc.  Shame is institutionalized. Silence = Debt campaign. Everyone has debt. Everyone can unite in debt.  This has the potential to reinvigorate the movement.
Minutes are posted here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ukbEvbeC6Ex6X4IdoudR__XOabJwLrc3SK4lidZa1iI/edit?pli=1

Berlin report back from BR:
Berlin Biennial went 1 hour without guards this morning because they  were talking about wages! Meeting with art workers organizers there,  exciting connections. Talking about what international solidarity  could look like to art workers across countries.  How politically
engaged artists can connect with local contexts when invited to  participate in fuckedup things/institutions (like BB7! Yes very fucked-  up!) encouraged by the perspective and excited that A&L is on the forefront of a lot of these conversations, reinvigorating to the work we have been doing.

Alt Econ/ Unconference
@Gardens at Berry Street btw 2nd and 3rd.
Developer tried to take it recently but has not succeeded so far.  Amazing to see how communal and how much care people shared about the place. Something in btw public and private. also 596 acres at Hughes Street. They found that 596 acres of empty
lots in Brooklyn alone.  Encourage communities to use them. Several  already successfully turned into community gardens. Thought the project was great but not as radical as it could be, but rather than “occupying,” it’s more about gardening and green spaces. It’s more about legal permissions and landlord giving permission for them to use  the lot. Danger of gentrification.

RH: They are mostly doing a PR campaign right now, raising awareness, distributing info, putting up signs on all the empty lots to alert people they can use it and finding legal ways to secure them. While it’s not explicitly radical in the same way of occupation, but it has
radical power in that it brings communities together to find their own agency and empowerment over shared space, and has already been effective in encouraging communities to reclaim some of those spaces for themselves.

ALF pamphlet addressed. Fun project for people to get involved.

Labor Cluster report back
One issue to bring up, labor cluster now meets at Zuccotti. Zuccotti is too militant but for the same reason, we need to resist and stay there. No consensus of movin

Target date September 17, What is A&L doing? Is there any actions planned?

Barbara Adams invitation to present with her class at Parsons, follow up (see minutes from last week)
CK: What if they just come to a meeting? Their participation can be a part of an agenda.
EG: Design is such a good issue. So I’m curious to learn from it.
RH: Reading the syllabus, there are connections. Emphasize these opportunities as a learning experience for us, rather than us teaching or talking at people. What questions do we have of them?
BW: Outreach is super important.
AS: Who is interested?
A few in the group showed interest.
CK: I would like to do it but timing is work. Parsons is problematic and the basic is at least not be inside the school  There was interest in engaging with the students, but concerns about class setting, but also no one present was available to go on the 18. invite them to an A&L meeting and go from there.

Sotheby’s report back:

The good thing is they got their jobs back. OWS, A&L, OM were important in making that happen by bringing awareness of Sotheby’s poor labor practices to the art world.

Before the Union got locked out: The main issue in the contract was the need for attrition language. 15 years ago there were 60/70 union members, now they have been reduced to 42. The last art handler hired into the Union was 4/5 years ago. Big part of the fight is the
Attrition Language, to preserve unionized members in the company. The Union wanted a guarantee that when a union member leaves, the position remains union, and the arthandler who fills that position will be able to join the union. Sotheby’s didn’t want that and they locked them out.  As the lockout dragged on a victory was just getting the jobs

What happened  at Sotheby’s can happen anywhere. Very similar to Patco during the Reagan administratrion in the 80s.  It inspired others to use unionbusting methods elsewhere  What’s needed is a movement or campaign in the artworld to prevent this from happening again. Such as creating solidarity among art handlers so they wont cross picket lines in the future.

1. Major points of contract that are victories:
Preserving “Just Cause” / Nullifying Automatic discipline Under their proposed work rules, any violation could result in automatically firing the employee, regardless of the circumstances. This is known as Automatic discipline. Fair contracts  have “Just Cause” to protect the employee from automatic discipline with a grievance procedure and  proper investigation. “Just Cause” answers such questions as  Did the employee actually break a rule? Was the rule published? Did he have fair representation? Is he receiving disparate treatment relative to others in the company? Was the Shop steward able to do a proper investigation? Is the discipline to severe in regards to the rule that was broken?  Was years of service taken into account when issuing discipline?

Preserved the right to wage inside campaigns
Union workers can wear pins at work that address disparate treatment or unfair labor practices. Like if someone is unfairly isolated to be attacked, other workers have right to wear pins to support co-worker and address problem. Sothebys hates this.

Overtime Rules
Favoritism system was proposed rather than the established seniority system. Rotational system was agreed upon, everyone will have a chance to work overtime, distributed equitably.

Sotheby’s wanted  the right to take away 401K retirement plan at anytime. Never underestimate how cruel your employer can be. Union got to keep this.

Lost their general foreman and deputy foreman positions.  They used to be very helpful as buffer between employee and management.  All workers report directly to management for instructions as opposed to Union foreman distributing work assignments.

Formerly union had good overtime. Overtime was given daily after 5:30 and on weekends.  This has now been reduced to OT only after 40hrs.

–Old  Rule concerning temporary workers was changed from 12 temporary workers who have 6 month terms to 18 temps that have a term of 9 months. Trigger language that forces Sotheby’s to hire them into the union is circumvented by Sotheby’s. If temporary employee works one day after their term date they are hired into the union. Sotheby’s fires them one day before, to prevent them from becoming union.

Automatic termination for lateness and 13 absences. If you exhaust your 12 sick days, On your 13th, you’re fired. “Just cause” used to prevent Sotheby’s from firing an employee for lateness or absence if there was a good reason.

The real threat:
This is designed to crush the union and destroy solidarity: Offering everyone an exit incentive package- $25K and higher (pending seniority) bonus to leave.  Have until mid July to accept But if 20 people accept the package, everyone gets $125,000 a person.

Union is getting phased back in by June 18.

The fact that they don’t have attrition language weakens the union. In 3 years, when the contract expires again, the number of unionized art handlers will be so low (possibly under 20)  they can lock them out indefinitely and the union will disappear.

They can reduce union head count gradually (further retirement and firings) and never hire another worker into the union.

Why they lost: because couldn’t stop production inside Sotheby’s. There are so many non-union art laborers in the city, and they would cross picket lines and work. $90 an hour goes to companies who bring in the workers. Employer gets them, employees probably get around $20 an hour.

Modern Staffing Inc: labor force from the south used to break unions. They exploit poor people by injecting them into tense labor conflicts as scabs.

Moving forward, start unionizing moving company, so that they will stop crossing picket lines.


Mixed feelings about Union victory in the press – while its understandable why some want to  portray this  as a victory, however, patting ourselves on the back is probably the wrong thing to do. Neoliberal a-holes are doubling their efforts to make life hell for
working people, this means unions, ows, and other activists need to triple their effort to combat them.

Sotheby’s hired Bob Batterman who engineered NFL & NBA lockouts. (A compliment in a way)

When B.B. took over the case, Sotheby’s felt their original offer was too generous, he told the union when he returns from vacation he will offer a new contract, which was definitely going to be worse. So the Teamsters ratified the original contract before he offered a new one. This embarrassed BB forcing him to offer another contract that was at least slightly better than the orignal contract.

Another lockout is very likely in 3 years when this contract expires.

There will be a very awkward transition period when union returns to work. Nov 9th, 2011 action (contempory night sale) really embarrassed and scared Sotheby’s. So there will be the need for a healing period. But there is still a need for exposing Sotheby’s poor labor practices. The Union will not be able to participate since we have returned to
work and are now bound by laws that prevent us from disparaging our employer. OWS is not bound by such laws.

A&L can organize art handlers and build solidarity amongst precarious labor.

If Arts and labor knows what can be done, while Union can’t reach out, we can reach out to other houses and let them know whats going on.

Are there any crozier guys?  We need to embrace the scabs and bring them into the fold. Sotheby’s succeeded in their lockout by exploiting one poor and desperate group of workers against another to lower labor standards for everyone.

The thing is, these days, I encounter a reaction to the word “labor,” as meaning union. No its about LABOR. We are all labor, we are not all unionized, but we are all precarious and this is the condition we live in. This case can be a good example for what can be a good opportunity for solidarity and awareness.  Organizing precarious labor and building support systems amongst all workers is the only way we can do anything.

Union Job at UPS. One day when he read the little yellow book. Empowered by it. If someone wants to get rid of me today, even though I have a good workplace, I know no one will stand up for me.

RH: How to proceed, is it helpful for us to continue to speak about this publicly at this point in time?  Maybe we can help by circulating critical information and perspectives on Soetheby’s differently than the union is able to?

Art info presentation is more in line to what was reported here. I think if you want to release you own stories and share it with people.

EG’s project: details forgotten. Will ask.


Group presentation:
ES Alternative Econ
EG Intern group
LB, BW Radical Art
Labor organizing

we will have roughly 5 minutes for each group to present an overview/ highlight of their work.

Call for a work meeting to work on materials. Friday 3 p.m. and then Wednesday night as back up in case?

Present teach-in documentations might be useful, 4th arts block, Gran Fury, etc. Occupy Lunch documentation.

Asking everyone to send discussion points/ questions. Soliciting  materials whether it be images, documents etc.

Is there anything we should address and criticize about the invitee?  Funding? Protocols.

Construct a timeline of A&L actions to date.

AB. Make sure other people participate and making the materials

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