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Brooklyn Museum lays off 29 employees; A new museum fires 18

The New Museum in New York (author photo for Hyperallergic)

Last week, two major New York art museums, the Brooklyn Museum and the New Museum, announced further layoffs. Both museums received Paycheque Protection Program (PPP) loans in the millions.

On June 29, the Brooklyn Museum, which received a $ 4.5 million PPP loan according to a spokesperson, laid off 26 full-time and 3 part-time employees. The layoffs reduced museum staff by 7%.

The next day, the New Museum laid off 18 full-time and part-time workers out of the 41 workers it has put on leave since March. The layoffs represent a 27% reduction in the museum’s full-time staff. The museum received a PPP loan between $ 1 and $ 2 million.

Both museums cited growing revenue losses due to the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown and dire financial projections as the reasons for their decisions.

The barricaded building of the New Museum in June 2020 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

In a statement to Hyperallergic, the New Museum said it had made its “extraordinarily difficult decision” due to a 30% deficit in its budget this year and “lost revenue and a deficit again. most important next year “.

The laid-off workers – who come from all departments of the new museum, including publishers, visitor services and security – received severance pay and extended health benefits until the end of August. The museum added that senior executives continue to receive reduced salaries, a move it announced in April (10% to 20% for executives and 30% for museum director Lisa Phillips).

The decision sparked an uproar from the New Union of Museums, which has seen 11 of its members lose their jobs.

“At a time when cultural institutions come under increased scrutiny for their hiring and retention practices, the Museum continues to offload the financial impact on its lowest-paid employees,” the union said in a statement. communicated to Hyperallergic. The union says museum management rejected its previous proposal to return to work on August 1 and still refuses to share reopening plans with its representatives.

Dana Kopel, the president of the New Museum Union unit, was among the laid-off workers. The two union representatives of the union also lost their jobs. Kopel, who ended her four-year tenure at the museum as editor-in-chief, told Hyperallergic in a conversation she was “angry and disappointed but not surprised.”

“The museum has now fired all members of our Steward Committee and has fired or dismissed all members of our bargaining committee; I don’t think it’s a coincidence, ”Kopel said, noting that the museum“ has been hostile to the union from the start ”.

Kopel added: “These layoffs have targeted some of the museum’s lowest paid workers, while executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars are still relatively untouched. “

Brooklyn Museum (Jules Antonio /Flickr)

In Brooklyn, a Fundraising to support past and current Brooklyn Museum staff, they raised $ 57,480. The fundraiser was started by the Brooklyn Museum Mutual Aid Fund to support struggling workers. The list of donors includes some of the museum’s administration, including its director Anne Pasternak, who donated $ 1,500.

In an email to Hyperallergic, the Brooklyn Museum said it suffered a shortfall of approximately $ 7.6 million in fiscal 2020 and expects more losses l ‘next year due to “the realities of social distancing, social reluctance and likely future closures that impact earned and contributed income.

“Our goal has always been to keep as many of our employees as possible for as long as possible,” the museum said. “Our director and president suffered salary cuts, we froze open positions and we reduced all possible expenses, with the exception of the payroll. Layoffs were our last choice.

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