Workers and artists at Studio in a School, a nonprofit group founded more than 40 years ago to teach art in public schools, have organized an effort to join a union.
The National Labor Relations Board will send ballots to eligible employees on Friday, the first step of an election by mail to determine whether Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers will represent a handful of full-time administrative staff and about 100 artists who work as part-time instructors with one-year contracts.
Those instructors want more predictability in work assignments and greater transparency in scheduling decisions, said the local’s president, Maida Rosenstein, adding: “In the pandemic, that became a very critical issue.”
Alison Scott-Williams, the president of Studio in a School NYC, wrote in an email message, “We have entered into a voluntary election agreement where employees will exercise their choice in this matter.”
New Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, have formed unions in recent years.
Agnes Gund, a prominent philanthropist and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, founded Studio in a School in 1977 as a response to cuts to arts education budgets brought on by a financial crisis in New York City.
Gund, who is known for supporting progressive causes, is still on the organization’s board. So are other art world figures, including Dorothy Lichtenstein, who was married to Roy Lichtenstein and is the president of a foundation named after him, and Tony Bechara, El Museo del Barrio’s board chair emeritus.
Today, the organization’s instructors teach art forms like drawing, painting and print making to about 30,000 students in New York City public schools. It has also exhibited work by students at Christie’s New York and the Asia Society Museum.
Union officials said Studio in a School had hired a law firm, Klein Zelman Rothermel Jacobs & Schess, that lists “preventative and union avoidance measures” among other services on its website.