Frieze Art Fair New York Labour Union Controversy




Frieze NYC pestered by angry protests from Council of Carpenters

The phenomenally successful Frieze Art Fair is set to hit America for the very first time in May 2012, boasting 160 international galleries from 28 countries, including Brazil, China, India, Korea, Mexico, Romania, Israel, and South Africa. But now there appears to a fly in the ointment with rumours of a labour union dispute.

The New York City District ‘Council of Carpenters’ have sent a letter the main sponsor of Frieze Art Fair – Deutsche Bank – to make known the existence of its ‘labor dispute’ with the fair organisers. The letter alleged that the Frieze machine was employing contractors who ‘do not pay the area standard wages to all their employees including providing or fully paying for health benefits and pension.’

But the message is decidedly confused, given that it appears that none of the 23,000 members of the Council are actually being employed to carry out the fair’s installation on Randall’s Island. So, rather than poor employment practices, the letter seems more likely motivated by the union’s desire to get in on the action. This is supported by representative of the Council Brian Brady, who stated that Frieze organisers ‘have the mentality that instead of using the contractors that work in the city and employ members of the organization that I represent, they would not go through the signatory contractors that have been used for the past 50 or 60 years in New York City,’

But fair organisers have struck back, saying that while ‘Frieze is aware of the letter sent by the New York City District Council of Carpenters’, they ‘would like to reassure everyone that we are not in a labor dispute with them or any other collective bargaining organization’.

They argue that ‘Frieze has a track record of producing high-quality art fairs and has contracted reputable local vendors with the appropriate skills and experience to prepare the Randall’s Island site for the upcoming art fair’; ‘In our inaugural edition of Frieze New York, we aim to make a positive cultural and economic contribution to the City by creating the best art fair experience for our participating galleries and the public.’

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