April 22, 2011
By Mike Fitzsimmons
Teamsters Local 814 has reached a contract agreement with Christie’s, the New York auction house that caters to the wealthy with an appetite for priceless art and antiques.
After weeks of negotiations, an agreement was reached Tuesday night, April 19th. The contract increases the number of Teamsters who handle millions of dollars worth of art and collectibles each week from 40 to 51.
In addition, Christie’s has agreed to train ten on all temporary workers to supplement the Teamsters workforce.
The deal comes less than two weeks after a rally outside the famed auction house where Teamsters and supporters protested the use of temporary and part time subcontractors instead of hiring full time workers.
Local 814 President, Jason Ide called the agreement a victory, saying Christie’s management were in part persuaded by the rally. “Ultimately, they listened and realized the value of investing in a team of experienced workers who know the ins and outs of the art house business.”
Ide went on to say, “I believe there has been a shift in corporate philosophy of the 1990’s where it was believed to be inefficient to use in house employees and less expensive to farm out the work. But the reality is experienced full time workers are a better investment. Staff workers are more loyal and have years of experience to do the best job.”
The union has secured a continuation of pension and medical benefits and wage increases for the rank and file. Contract details include salary increases commensurate with experience. For a newcomer the starting salary has been upped to $17.50 an hour with increases eventually reaching $19.50 per hour.
Ide, the 28 year old union leader, who was brought into power in 2009 on a reform slate says, “It is always a struggle for unions to win what is right for its members.”
But he says hopes this agreement with Christie’s will reverberate in all upcoming union negotiations, including the one facing Local 814 in July with another big auction house, Sotheby’s.
A Christie’s spokesperson declined comment on the agreement explaining that the auction house doesn’t comment on company matters.