Frieze New York, like all art fairs, is temporary. For a week during the month of May, the British company descends on Randall’s Island and rolls out a tent, under which wealthy dealers and collectors come from the world over to trade money for art. The residents of Randall’s Island don’t reap much monetary benefit from this form of art tourism—and the city’s labor force doesn’t either. Over the years, Frieze exhibition organizers have been accused of hiring event staff and art handlers from as far away as Wisconsin in order to avoid hiring New Yorkers, particularly union workers. All that’s about to change. After months of meetings with local union leaders, Frieze New York has decided to commit to union labor.
The advocacy group Arts & Labor broke the news yesterday. From their statement:
Unions, including Teamsters Joint Council 16 and IATSE, reached an agreement with Frieze New York regarding its hiring practices. This year, the art fair will hire some union labor to construct the fair’s tent on Randall’s Island. Starting in 2015, Frieze New York has committed to hiring 100% union labor. We applaud Frieze’s effort in supporting fair labor practices and its long-term commitment to set an example for the rest of the industry.
This is a big win for the labor unions. Although there’ll only be “some” union labor this year, in 2015 Frieze will go on board with union labor 100 percent of the time. That goes far beyond Frieze’s 10-year permit granted to them by the city, which includes no stipulations about hiring practices. And most importantly, by building relationships with those who live and work in the city year-round, this might prove Frieze isn’t so temporary after all.
Arts & Labor will be holding a meeting to discuss this year’s fair and what other social-minded organizations can learn from union negotiations with Frieze. The meeting will be held at 33 West Broadway this coming Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM. All are invited.