Thursday, November 17, 2011

Workers and students of the world unite to protest Sotheby's

Solidarity with Sotheby's locked-out workers, Geneva.
Sotheby's reckless lock-out of 43 Teamster art handlers in the midst of an insanely profitable auction season has provoked condemnation from all quarters: Occupy Wall Street, the art press, international labor unions and university students.

The Columbia Spectator reported on a student protest of the university's former president's ties to Sotheby’s.
Columbia students protested outside Columbia Law School on Monday in opposition to former Columbia President Michael Sovern’s involvement in a lockout at the Sotheby’s auction house.
Sovern, who is currently a Law School professor, is the chairman of Sotheby’s, which replaced 42 art handlers after contract negotiations failed. Protestors said that Sotheby’s was attempting to cut those workers’ hours and pensions and that the unionized handlers have been replaced with non-unionized temp workers.
Yoni Golijov, CC ’12, decried Sotheby’s labor practices at the Columbia rally, which took place as part of the Student Week of Action, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Why would they effectively pay their CEO $60,000 a day when they demand their workers work without pension? How does that make sense?” Golijov said. “I’ll tell you how it makes sense—it’s greedy.”
Swiss unions held a solidarity demonstration for the locked-out art handlers in Geneva. Global union federations IUF, ICEM and IMF, along with UNI and UNIA participated. The Swiss media reported on the action. Reports UNI:
UNI, the other global union federations and Swiss unions held their demonstration in front of Sotheby’s Geneva location and gave patrons of a jewel auction information about management’s attacks on workers in New York City.
The New York employees, who are members of the Teamsters union in the US, have been shut out of the job by the company in an effort to force them to accept the outsourcing of their jobs to companies that employ temporary workers.

Sotheby’s has demanded pay cuts and the right to terminate the employees’ pensions. These cuts come after the auction house had one of its best years in its 267-year history and nearly doubled its CEO’s compensation to $6 million.

UNI will continue to support the global campaign against Sotheby’s anti-worker, anti-union campaign.
You can see more pictures on this Facebook page:
Not only have the protests created a link in the public's mind between "Sotheby's" and "reckless greed," but they've made it into the vernacular. Consider this recent New York Times story about the art market; includes a quote from Anthony Grant, a Sotheby's specialist in contemporary art:
“I hope the Occupy Wall Street group doesn’t show up,” Mr. Grant said to Meryl Rose, whose family founded the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Mass. (About 100 protesters did show Wednesday night, shouting “Shame on you.” They were protesting a labor dispute between union art handlers and Sotheby’s. Bidders had to exit through a side door, but the auction, and spending spirit, were otherwise unmolested.)
To catch up on all the Sotheby's action (or inaction on the company's part), click here.