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Life Arts

Teamsters Strike at Sotheby's supported by Occupiers

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The striking Teamsters at Sotheby's have been locked out for three months. Sotheby's is a privately owned, high end art dealer. Its clients are very wealthy people.The employees in question are art handlers. They went on strike as Sotheby's as sought to reduce their compensation and benefits. For the first half of this year, Sotheby's sales were 3.4 billion dollars and its net income was 127 million dollars. The sales figures were a record high for Sotheby's The teamsters argue management is acting purely out of greed in a desire to increase profits at the expense of employees. The locked out workers have been replaced by temporary workers. Teamsters 814 began dialog with Occupy Wall Street at Zucotti Park and Occupiers have been assisting them.

Weekly protests occur at 6pm, when Sotheby's does its auction. As talks between various working groups at Occupy Wall Street and Teamsters 814 increased, a small contingent of Occupiers joined the teamsters a few weeks ago. Each week the crowd increased as more people became aware of this strike. The protesters had a giant inflated rat, played loud music, whistled, and shouted "shame on you" at clients of Sotheby's as they entered the auction. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, a number of allies from Occupy CUNY, Occupy NYU, joined other occupiers to protest the greed of Sotheby's management. I was told that this was the biggest crowd to date. There was a heavy police presence. Overall, police and protesters respected each other. As the sidewalk became crowded, a few protesters blocked traffic. A police van arrived and apparently arrested perhaps two people.

In the crowd, there were a number of people from other unions as well. The TWU, New York's transportation union, had members there. There were people from the Healthcare union, teachers unions, and other unions. The various union members felt that if one of them should be defeated by management, that they are all endanger. The significant thing about this is in the past, when a union struck, its members were on their own. Other unions didn't assist. Occupy has created a platform in which unions united together, and also bring in allied members of the public. One Union, spread out fliers for its event in Woodlawn Cemetery Teamsters 808 are the workers at Woodlawn Cemetery There were other protesters who identified as socialists. The socialists felt that it was important to be there in solidarity with all working class people. A number of signs at the event simply said we are the 99%. Others mentioned the union that the protester was a member of. A good thing about these events is that university students are present. Years ago university students were conditioned to think that they were all going to become corporate executives. Now in today's poor job market and high student loan debts, students increasingly identify with the working class. Certain signs were critical of the concept of temporary workers. Some signs equated temporary work with permanent second class status. The mixed crew that came out for Teamsters 814 indicate a changing consciousness among many. Teamsters isn't a well known union, and its workers don't cover an industry known to most in the public. Yet its getting more public attention as workers realize their duty to each other.


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Screenwriter. Historian. BA in History and certificate in Latin American studies from Cornell University. MA candidate in English at Columbia University. Very interested in public policy.

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