(HANOVER, N.H.) – Teamsters art handlers are continuing their seven-month-long campaign to end their lockout by Sotheby’s auction house.
Four Teamsters art handlers held a teach-in Friday at Dartmouth College to inform students that they’re not on strike, but have been kicked out of their middle-class jobs by a profitable company that caters to the very wealthy.
The students confronted Dartmouth’s board of trustees Saturday with an Occupy Wall Street-style mic check. They demanded that trustee Diana Taylor end the lockout of 42 art handlers by Sotheby’s, where she also serves as a director.
The students further asked the college to end its participation in Sotheby’s intern program and to refuse to buy or sell works of art at the auction house until the dispute is settled.
Nathan Gusdorf, a senior and member of Occupy Dartmouth, said he was pleased some of the trustees seemed receptive to the message.
“What Sotheby’s is doing to their art handlers, trying to starve them into accepting the destruction of their own union is outrageous,” Gusdorf said. “And the fact that a Dartmouth College Trustee is complicit in this attack on working families is even more outrageous.”
Despite grossing over $700 million in 2010, Sotheby’s hired the notorious union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis to attack its workers. More than seven months ago, Sotheby’s locked the art handlers out of their jobs, depriving them of their paychecks. On Jan. 1, the art handlers and their families were stripped of their health care coverage. Sotheby’s continues to demand that all union positions be phased out and replaced with low wage non-union temporary positions with no benefits.
Trustee Diana Taylor publicly vowed to resign from the board of Sotheby’s in December if the company so much as negotiated with the union. (The now-infamous youtube clip can be viewed here.) She was noticeably absent at Saturday’s trustee meeting.
“Taylor’s open hostility to the bargaining process, and refusal to end this awful lockout is an affront to my College’s values,” said Janet Kim, a Dartmouth junior who participated in Saturday’s action. “Dartmouth has always been committed to being a socially responsible institution, but Taylor’s actions totally fly in the face of that.”
Sotheby’s reckless behavior has harmed its shareholders. In a recent filing with financial regulators, the auction house disclosed that it had spent $2.4 million in “extra expenses” associated with the first three months of the lockout. (The entire cost of the art handler’s contract is $3.2 million.) The lockout has also caused several organizations, including a group affiliated with Oberlin College, to cancel events originally scheduled to be held at Sotheby’s.
“Diana Taylor’s refusal to publicly use her influence to try to end this lockout not only speaks volumes about how she feels about America’s working families, but it should raise serious questions about her stewardship as a board member,” said Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814, the union that represents the workers.
Campus organizations represented at the teach-in and at the action were Occupy Dartmouth, Students Stand With Staff, and United Students Against Sweatshops.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org or follow us @TeamsterPower or @TeamsterNation.