laborprotest.jpgWorkers crammed into small spaces and contending with oppressive heat on the Lower East Side. Thank goodness for the labor movement of the early 20th Century. Or are the very people who commemorate those days enduring the same conditions? The Villager reports that workers at The Lower East Side Tenemant Museum are taking a page out of their own history books and forming a union. Their complaints include extreme temperatures and cramped workspaces. They want improved working conditions, better pay, and benefits. Irony is alive and well on Orchard St.

Broken air-conditioners and full-costume requirements leave many of the Tenement Museum's workers close to fainting during the summer. The majority of employees have signed union cards in an effort to improve working conditions. But workers are not the only ones who have been reading up on labor relations. The museum's administration isn't calling in Pinkertons to thump skulls, but it is employing delaying tactics like referring the entire matter to the National Labor Relations Board.

The National Labor Relations Board process can take years, which unions argue gives employers the advantage by allowing them to intimidate workers and threaten them into voting against unionization. Bipartisan legislation in Congress seeks to simplify the process by certifying the union once a majority of workers have signed card authorizations, rather than using a ballot election.

This seems like a meta-field trip unto itself. Visitors can head to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to see the oppressive living conditions of historic NY, while witnessing the oppressive working conditions of 21st Century New Yorkers who work at tenement museums.