NEW YORK, Aug. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Hundreds of Teamster members and supporters protested outside Sotheby’s Manhattan showroom to educate the company’s clients about the lockout of its art handlers today. Protesters held banners and signs that read, “Sotheby’s: Bad for Art” and “Sotheby’s: Stop the War on Art Workers,” while distributing leaflets.
After the most profitable year in the history of the company, auction house Sotheby’s locked out its longtime, dedicated employees on Aug. 1 while in the middle of contract negotiations. Those employees handle artwork and antiques valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. The company replaced its longtime, dedicated union employees with unskilled replacement workers.
“Sotheby’s hired Jackson Lewis, one of America’s most notoriously union-hostile law firm, to sabotage our contract talks. Jackson Lewis specializes in helping New York employers destroy permanent, professional jobs by bringing in a temporary workforce with high turnover,” said Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814, which represents the 43 locked-out workers. “New York can’t afford to lose more good jobs, and art patrons need to know that outsourced art handlers at Sotheby’s aren’t destroying their treasures.”
“Sotheby’s has joined the growing ranks of companies that abuse their workers despite making hundreds of millions in profit. The Teamsters will always stand up for working people, and we are here to tell Sotheby’s that when they act like a corporate bully, we will fight back,” said Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa.
“New Yorkers need to know that these Sotheby’s workers—these experienced and dedicated art handlers who are responsible for protecting priceless works of art—are being treated unfairly,” said George Miranda, Teamsters International Vice President and President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York. “Replacing experienced art handlers with outsourced workers is a bad way to handle New York’s fine art.”
When Sotheby’s experienced the most profitable quarter in its 267-year history, it rewarded its top management royally. Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht’s salary almost doubled in 2010 to $6 million. In several bargaining sessions since the Aug. 1 lockout, there has been little movement from the company to settle the contract.
“We are responsible for shipping, receiving, unpacking, assembling, and installing exhibitions of artwork and antiques valued in the millions of dollars,” said Julian Tysch, a locked-out Sotheby’s art handler. “With profits over $100 million in the last quarter alone, I don’t understand why Sotheby’s would make such a bad decision to outsource this sensitive work and kick us to the curb for no reason.”