Sotheby's Auction House Locked Out Art Handlers, Union Says

By Ben Fractenberg on August 1, 2011 8:47pm 

Sotheby's Auction House locked out art handlers on August 1 after labor negotiations broke down.
Sotheby's Auction House locked out art handlers on August 1 after labor negotiations broke down.
View Full Caption
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Upper EAST SIDE — Sotheby's Auction House has locked out 40 art handlers after months of contract negotiations, Teamsters local 814 said.

“It’s hard to believe,” said shop steward David Martinez.  “We contributed to the company’s success, and now they want to slash full-time jobs and replace us with non-union, temporary positions.”

The workers reportedly received a letter last Friday telling them not to come to work on Monday.

The auction house, which is located on York Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets, is using temporary workers while the lockout goes on, the union said.

“It seems to me that they are putting the whole operation at risk,” said Local 814 President Jason Ide.  “Putting multi-million dollar works in the hands of a temporary crew is not a good idea.”

Union leaders said Sotheby's saw more than $680 million in profits last year.

The auction house did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a spokeswoman told Crain's New York Business that the impasse was the workers' fault, because they rejected a previous offer.

Workers were reportedly asked to make concessions including using some temporary workers, reducing hours and waiving some federal equal rights protections.

“This was not an outcome Sotheby’s wanted,” a spokeswoman for the auction house told Crain's in a statement. “We have been negotiating in good faith since May and had offered a contract with attractive terms which unfortunately they did not accept.”

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement