MoMA and its union workers came to an agreement in the early hours of Friday morning, after two straight days of negotiations concerning their new contract—one that had been poised to drastically slash their health benefits without a corresponding wage increase.
Maida Rosenstein, a spokeswoman for UAW Local 2110 which represents the museum's curators, administrators, librarians, visitor assistants, designers, researchers, and gift shop employees—70% of whom are women—was pleased with the outcome. "We didn't know whether we were going to be able to reach an agreement. I think the jury was out until the very end," she said. "But we were prepared to escalate further, and I think the museum knew this."
At a protest in early June, staged outside of the museum's annual spring benefit, many employees voiced their concern about an early version of the contract, which called for salary increases from 1% to 2% (the majority of UAW employees take home between $29,000 and $50,000). But under the three-year contract negotiated last week, MoMA workers will see raises between 3 and 10.4% in the first year of the contract, according to a statement from the union.
Earlier this month, employees were also notified of the impending addition of new out-of-pocket healthcare costs: a mandatory deductible between $300 and $600, and 15% out of pocket for all hospital visits, up to $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family.
Many pointed out that childbirth, completely covered under the old contract, would now be expensive. "It feels like a direct attack on our ability to do our job," said Megan Grann, who works for the museum bookstore, at the time. "Upper management is skewed heavily towards men. Women are the lower-paid workers, and have to take on these costs during childbearing years."
"Nobody works here for the salaries," added Jennifer Wolfe, a registrar with a seven-year-old daughter. "It's really the benefit package that makes it possible. Most of the families here rely on MoMA healthcare for the entire family."
But in the final hours of negotiation last week, the union was able to bargain down the out-of-pocket threshold to $1,500, and cut out the proposed mandatory deductibles completely. Additionally, the Museum agreed to soften the blow of out-of-pocket medical expenses with $200-800 per year for all employees who earn $75,000 or less—that's 90% of the union.
According to a statement issued by MoMA, "The agreement recognizes the dedication and value of our staff, and demonstrates the Museum’s commitment to providing fair and equitable healthcare and wages for all employees."
"We obviously would have liked to be able to keep zero changes in the benefits," Rosenstein said. "But I don't view this as a concession, because we got enough [in raises] to offset those costs."