Posted 5 years ago on June 13, 2012, 4:09 p.m. EST by BetsyRoss2
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The high-end art auction house locked out the 43 Teamsters when they refused a contract that one member said “would put us on the path to extinction” by allowing work to be contracted out to non-union workers with no protections.
Occupy Wall Street took up the cause of the locked-out art handlers, staging a series of disruptions at Sotheby’s auctions. Dressed as customers, they rose to speak about workers’ rights when bidding reached a crescendo, causing the art dealer to impose a $5,000 deposit requirement to attend auction events.
At Sotheby’s marquee event, a contemporary art auction in November, seven Occupiers locked themselves together with bike locks, briefly blocking the entrance, while 400 demonstrated outside. Inside, one painting went for $61.7 million.
Just last month, Sotheby’s presided over sale of “The Scream,” Edvard Munch’s 1895 pastel, for $120 million. The union had used the image throughout the conflict, labeling Sotheby’s “bad for art.” Several artists backed the handlers’ campaign.
The small group of workers fought hard, taking aim at Sotheby’s board members, picketing, and speaking out in the middle of pricey charity events attended by 1 percenters. Their creative tactics and direct action pushed hard against the takeaways their employer demanded, keeping members and supporters engaged in a long campaign that didn’t just surrender to the rules of labor law that box in unions.
“People are ready to go back to work,” said Teamsters Local 814 President Jason Ide. “After 10 months we fought our way back to decent job standards.”