We are in the process of talking to our colleagues about organizing a union at Studio. We love the work we do but we want to make Studio a stronger, more sustainable workplace for all of us. With a union, we will have a democratic voice in the workplace and the legal right to bargain collectively over all of our terms of employment. We would join thousands of other workers at non-profit, educational and cultural institutions who have organized unions in their workplaces. 

What is a union?

The purpose of a union is to establish the right to collectively bargain a legally binding contract that protects employee compensation, benefits and sets workplace rights and job security. By banding together as employees and forming a union, we have more power and leverage to negotiate for better conditions.

What are the benefits of collective bargaining?

Currently, Studio decides unilaterally on all our terms and conditions of employment: what we will be paid, what our benefits will be, when we get time off, whether we are retained, etc. With a union, Studio must bargain in good faith with us over all of these conditions of our employment (and more), and cannot reduce our benefits or rights at work without our union’s agreement.

What is the process of forming a union?

To form a union, a majority of employees have to vote YES for unionization in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency.

Can I lose my job for joining a union?

No. It is illegal to retaliate against anyone for forming or joining a union. Thousands of workers in NYC in every occupation, including educational institutions, and non-profits have formed, joined, and been active in their unions. Furthermore, with a union, employees have greater job protection because employers must affirmatively demonstrate that they have “just cause” before terminating an employee.

Can Studio in a School “afford” a contract?

Adjunct educators and teaching artists at different sized institutions (the Brooklyn Friends School, Barnard Contingent Faculty, the Children’s Museum of the Arts) have unionized for fairer and democratic workplaces. Currently, Studio decides unilaterally on how to allocate its resources. With a union, we will have the right to ask for validated information about Studio’s assets and will have the ability, through our collective bargaining rights, to help make Studio a more democratic, transparent workplace.

Is a pandemic the right time to organize a union?

The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable and precarious our positions are without a union.  While a union may not be able to completely prevent layoffs or furloughs, if we are organized, Studio will have to bargain with our union and cannot unilaterally implement cuts.  Most union contracts include layoff protection like notice, severance pay, right to return when jobs re-open, etc.  And with a union, management has to share credible information and data to justify layoffs and reductions.

What are union dues?

There are no dues until after a first contract is negotiated and voted into effect by the majority of us.   After that, union dues are 2% of your regular wages. Union dues pay for the cost of maintaining and supporting a strong union, e.g., legal costs, staffing, equipment, supplies, rent, etc.

What about strikes?

Strikes are a pressure tactic of last resort and most contracts are settled without strikes. Local 2110 has negotiated many successful contracts without having to strike, by effectively using rallies, leaflet campaigns, social media, reachout to elected officials and other community allies, and other peaceful tactics to win a fair contract. Strikes can only be implemented if the members themselves want to strike. Any strike would require a two thirds majority vote of union members.  With proper support and preparation, strikes can be a powerful means of pressuring an unfair employer to do the right thing.

Why Local 2110 of the UAW?

Local 2110 represents thousands of educators, teaching artists, technical, office and professional workers throughout the metropolitan area, including employees at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Friends School, the administrative staff, and teaching and research assistants of Columbia University, graduate teachers at New York University, the contingent faculty of Barnard College, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, HarperCollins Publishers, the ACLU, and many more. The International UAW is one of the most powerful unions in the country and provides our local union with resources and expertise to assist us in legal issues, organizing, civil rights, legislative action, and health and safety work.

What are the next steps if we vote in a union?

We will elect a union negotiating committee from among ourselves. We will determine the size and composition of the committee. The committee will survey everyone about their bargaining priorities and we will draw up bargaining demands that our own union membership will approve. We will then sit down and bargain with Studio management over a contract. Local 2110 staff will assist us at each step of the process. No contract can be implemented without the approval of Studio in a School union membership.

What happens after we get a contract?

We will elect a union chairperson and union stewards from among ourselves to make sure that the contract is enforced and administered properly. These elected representatives will also represent us on the Local 2110 Joint Council, composed of representatives from each workplace in the Local Union.   Local 2110 can help train our elected stewards and provide advice when needed.

How will Studio react? 

Some employers campaign aggressively against unionization and try to discourage staff from voting YES for a union. It’s not illegal for management to express their opinion, but employers often use misinformation and distortion to disparage unionization campaigns. Remember the acronym TIPS, because it is illegal for Studio to:

Threaten you over your support for a union.
Interrogate you about whether you support the union.
Promise you something if you vote against the union.
Surveil you or your coworkers to find out about support for the union.