According to sources speaking anonymously with Art F City, Jeff Koons’ mammoth studio operation in Chelsea has laid off 14 of its night crew workers who were attempting to unionize and one day crew member who was friendly with those night crew organizers.
Though details are scant, multiple anonymous sources say that the painters had begun the process of unionization over the past few months. Reportedly, communication was established with 829 United Scenic Artists to handle the formalities of the negotiation process.
Around the same time, management at Jeff Koons LLC decided to give the painters a raise. It is unknown whether or not this decision was related to the unionization. But at the time, it was speculated by some of Koons employees that this move was intended to satiate the demand for a union. It’s also notable that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of painting work to be done which caused some employees to question the timing of the raise. The studio has no major upcoming shows and has only been working on a solo retrospective entitled, “Now,” for Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. Otherwise, the painters were working on backlogged commissions.
On Thursday, employees who were leading the charge to unionize were unceremoniously “laid off.” Based on what we’re told, anyone who was hired after June 1st, 2015 was chosen to be let go.
No one involved in this story could speak on the record due to fear of reprisal and the potential for future litigation. We are being told that legal proceedings are currently underway. If it is proven that the Koons’ staff members were fired as a punishment for trying to unionize, it would constitute a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your employer to:
“Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.”
Repeated phone calls to Jeff Koons LLC have thus far gone unanswered. An emailed request for comment has also received no reply.
When we contacted 829 United Scenic Artists by phone, its spokesperson seemed to be taken aback by our questions and declined to comment before we were abruptly cut off. Subsequent attempts to call back have gone unanswered. We can confirm that the Koons workers met with union officials on Friday to discuss the legal path going forward.
Norman Rosenthal’s summation of Koons work as “manifestations of a joyful acceptance of American culture” seems to only be gaining more relevance.