Environment and Energy, Features, Finance, Law and Politics, New York

BAM Staff Votes for Unionization

June 15, 2019

By Silver Krieger

NEW YORK, NY – On Thursday, June 13th, members of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) staff voted in favor of unionization for administrative full-time and part-time workers. The certified election results will mean the workers will join UAW Local 2110, alongside workers in other cultural institutions such as the New Museum, the Tenement Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New-York Historical Society.

Emily Searles, a BAM staffer, told LaborPress, “We had an 82% yes vote. We’re on cloud nine. We started a long time ago, very grass roots – started talking about what we could do to improve our situation.” 119 were in favor and 26 were opposed, and a total of 176 people are in the unit that will be in the union. Earlier this  month, she told LaborPress, ““The push for unionizing, in the first place, was because we’ve noticed a lack of transparency around things like employee departures, staffing changes and benefits, baseline compensation, annual increases or promotions, and so, while we were hoping for a neutrality agreement to be reached, I wasn’t expecting voluntary recognition either.” They join other unionized workers at BAM represented by IATSE and DC37 AFSCME.

The staff involved include such roles as cinema floor staff, box office, ticket concession stands, ticketing services for live performances, and those who talk to customers over the phone, including the telefundraising team.

Warren Ng, a ticket services representative, said: “I have many colleagues who have quietly and loyally worked at BAM for 5 to 10 years, in a few cases as many as 20, and they’re still struggling to get by on low or stagnant wages, reduced hours, little to no benefits, and a precarious sense of security. Unionizing addresses these issues in a real way for those here now and those that will work here in the future.”

Kaitlyn Chandler, a video editor and motion designer who has been employed at BAM for over three years, said: “This is an important step for BAM. We can finally put our progressive values into action in the form of a contract where workers, who are the brick and mortar of BAM, can have a say in their own compensation, benefits, and conditions.”

Richard Serrano, a research manager in the major gifts department, said: “I’ve worked at BAM for 25 years and it’s been very clear to me that wages at BAM have not kept pace with the cost of living in New York City. Unionizing was and is imperative to improve the economic situation of our newer staff members.”

Maida Rosentstein, President of UAW Local 2110, said, “I think it’s very inspiring to workers to stand together like that and organize and in such overwhelming numbers. It’s a vote that will resonate with other workers and other educational and cultural institutions in the city. The next steps are to get ready for negotiations.”

Said Searles, “We’re doing this because we love the institution so much. We stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Election results will be officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board in seven days..

June 15, 2019

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