WHAT: Hispanic Society striking staff will picket Board Chair Philippe de Montebello’s Upper East Side apartment
WHEN: Wednesday, April 19, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
WHERE: 40 East 94th Street, east of Madison Avenue, New York City
Striking staff of the Hispanic Society of America with UAW Local 2110 will picket the Upper East Side apartment building of the Hispanic Society’s Board Chair Philippe de Montebello on Wednesday at noon. The workers, including curators, conservators, art handlers, educators, and fundraising staff have been on strike since March 27. This is the first museum strike in New York City in over twenty years. De Montebello, who was formerly Executive Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has repeatedly refused to address staff concerns about health and safety for both staff and the collection itself.
On Thursday, the Society accepted deliveries of several masterpieces in its collection that had been on loan to the Royal Academy of Art in London for an exhibition. Instead of using professional art handlers, the Society used contractors that workers say endangered the art through mishandling and lack of security. Here are photos of the delivery in which contractors crossed the picket line after rolling multi-million dollar masterpieces down Broadway in traffic.
Workers went on strike after more than a year of negotiations for a first contract because of Hispanic Society’s demands for health care cuts, low wages and threats to subcontract out work. Many are also frustrated over lack of staffing and poor treatment of the collection which includes masterpieces of Spain, Portugal and Latin America. They cite lack of temperature control for storage and unfilled vacancies for collections care staff. Workers say that the Hispanic Society has prioritized the hiring of non-union executive assistants over vital curatorial, conservation and art handling positions. In February, staff sent a letter outlining many of their concerns to the Hispanic Society’s Board of Trustees. Read here for a letter sent by staff to the Board of Trustees.
“The strike has shown that the administration is willing to endanger priceless treasures,” says Patrick Lenaghan, a curator who has worked at the Hispanic Society for twenty-eight years. “The Society is jeopardizing its own invaluable holdings: We are severely understaffed, and our incredible collection is in jeopardy because of a lack of proper safeguards.”