Activists from the ongoing occupation in lower Manhattan, called "Occupy Wall Street," infiltrated an art auction at the famous Sotheby's auction house and gallery to give voice to the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement and to stand in solidarity with Sotheby's workers who have been locked out in an ongoing labor dispute.
Video of the action is below:
Forty-three members of the Teamsters Local 814, the art handlers at Sotheby's, were locked out on August 1, in the midst of contract negotiations. A press release issued by the Occupy Wall Street activists describes the hardball negotiating tactics of the Sotheby's management as a bid to destroy their workers' retirement protections and to replace the skilled handlers with temporary workers without benefits: "[Sotheby's] wants the art handlers to give up their 401K plan and work a reduced 36-hour week, effectively a 10 percent wage cut. The company also wants to cap workers' overtime, eliminate certain titles that pay more, and, in initial bargaining, wanted workers to give up their right to sue over charges of discrimination."
This despite the fact that Sotheby’s just had its most profitable year ever in its 267 years of business and pays the CEO, Bill Ruprecht, approximately $60,000 a day, according to the union.
Occupy Wall Street activist released the following statement about the situation at Sotheby’s:
"Occupy Wall Street supporters are appalled at the persistent attack on workers rights. We support the right of the workers to collectively bargain. Sotheby’s wants all new hires to have no collective bargaining rights, no health benefits and no job security. After locking out their unionized work force, Sotheby’s continues to operate using scabs and a non-union subcontractor. Sotheby’s art auctions epitomize the disconnect of the extremely wealthy from the rest of us."
[Full disclosure: The author of this post took part in this action and appears in the video.]