New York’s Film Forum Workers Unionize, Petition for Election

Workers at the long-running nonprofit cinema Film Forum in New York City have unionized, and are seeking recognition through a National Labor Relations Board election, they announced on Tuesday.

Organizers say that a “strong supermajority” of the organization’s 50 workers recently signed cards in favor of unionizing. That would give them the ability to seek voluntary recognition from management; they plan instead to move ahead with an election conducted by the NLRB, a not-unusual move among workplaces that are organizing.

Typically an election happens six to eight weeks after workers file for one. The workers’ supermajority offers a sense of confidence that they have a strong chance at voting in favor of the election at the official vote, which requires majority approval.

Founded in 1970 in Greenwich Village, Film Forum offers a robust repertory program as well as hosting premieres of indies, international movies, and arthouse fare. Its four screens boast some 500 seats and it counts 6,500 paying members.

Film Forum describes itself as the only autonomous nonprofit cinema in New York City.

In a release, the staffers said they are seeking “a more equitable, ethical, and sustainable workplace with decisions about employment terms — just hiring practices, health and safety standards for front line staff, a holistic approach to organizational development, fair compensation and workplace rights — negotiated on equal grounds with leadership through a fair contract.”

Organized as the Film Forum Union, the group is affiliated with Technical, Office, and Professional Union Local 2110 UAW, which represents cultural and educational workers across New York and New England.

“We’re very excited to have Film Forum staff organizing with our union,” said Maida Rosenstein, Local 2110’s president. “It’s fantastic to see so many workers in arts and culture unionize. Collective bargaining will give workers at Film Forum a voice in their employment conditions. Ultimately, unionizing will make Film Forum a stronger, more sustainable workplace for all.”

The Film Forum effort comes on the heels of another prominent film nonprofit unionization effort by workers at the Los Angeles-based International Documentary Association. The IDA union was voluntarily recognized by management earlier this month.

Locally, staff at several New York cultural organizations have formed unions in recent years, including Film at Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Unionized workers at Anthology Film Archives went on strike earlier this month as part of demands for higher wages as staff and management iron out a first contract. It also comes amid a wave of organizing this year among workers at Amazon and Starbucks locations across the U.S.

Looking ahead, Film Forum Union organizers said they will elect a union negotiating committee that will survey all workers about their bargaining priorities and draw up demands for management. Any contract must be approved by the union membership if and when it is recognized.

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