anton vidokle on Wed, 16 May 2012 02:53:41 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> petition

Sotheby's: offer your art handlers a fair contract

Sign the petition at =

May 1, 2011

For the past eight months, Sotheby's has locked its 43 unionized art =
handlers out of work. Rather than negotiating a fair contract with its =
employees, the company has issued a set of demands: the gutting of the =
art handlers' union, the elimination of health insurance and other =
benefits, and the replacement of full-time skilled workers with =
temporary unskilled laborers.

Sotheby's has decided that the handling of priceless artworks is an easy =
job; that low-paid temporary workers with little training or incentive =
can manage the constant stream of artifacts into and out of the world's =
largest auction house. The 43 locked-out workers who have made art =
handling their career know this is not true.

There have been no negotiations. In meeting after meeting, Sotheby's has =
stalled, preferring instead to extend the lockout in the hopes that =
their workers might eventually capitulate to demands designed to exploit =
them. To make certain, the company has hired Jackson Lewis, a =
notoriously anti-employee law firm that the AFL-CIO has called the =
"number one union buster in America."

The message from Sotheby's is clear: art handlers do not deserve the =
same benefits as the rest of their staff. If art handlers expect the =
privileges of their betters, like health insurance or collective =
bargaining rights, it is acceptable to make them suffer.

Sotheby's has no financial incentive. Last year, the company saw its =
highest profits ever, increasing revenue by 7% year-on-year.  They =
remain the largest and most successful business in the art world, and =
they know it: in 2010, CEO William Ruprecht more than doubled his own =
salary, to 6 million USD.

The entire union contract totals 3.2 million USD.

It is the sheer obviousness of this abuse of power that makes action =

We are asking artists, collectors, and institutions to sign this =
petition and stand in solidarity with the Sotheby's art handlers until =
they receive a fair contract. This is not about hurting the company =
financially; unlike Sotheby's, we have no taste for the suffering of =
others. This is about displaying a commitment to the moral principle of =
fair pay for fair labor, and to the possibility of ethical practices in =
the arts. This is about declaring, as an industry, that people should be =
treated well. This is about standing up and saying, in one voice: "This =
is wrong."=20

We must be the conscience that Sotheby's lacks.=20

If you?re an artist you can tell Sotheby's you don?t support their sale =
of your work.=20
If you're a collector, you can buy and sell from other auction houses =
whenever possible.
If represent an institution you can refuse sponsorships from Sotheby's.
If you're in the media, you can use your platform to assure that all =
voices get heard.

Whoever you are, you can sign this petition, and show Sotheby's where =
you stand. Then forward it to everyone you know. You can make the art =
world you want to participate in; a place where people matter, and no =
one can be casually cast aside.


Paddy Johnson, Editorial Director, Art Fag City
Will Brand, Editor-in-Chief, Art Fag City
Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux
Hrag Vartanian, Veken Gueyikian, Hyperallergic
Haim Steinbach, artist
Deborah Kass, artist
Marilyn Minter, artist
AA Bronson, artist
Shepard Fairey, artist
William Powhida, artist
W.A.G.E., artist collective

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