Activists target Sotheby’s for anti-union policies; protest during auction New York

September 27, 2011

Manhattan-based activist group Occupy Wall Street took their guerrilla protest tactics to Sotheby’s on September 22, standing in solidarity with the auction house’s art handlers who have been the subject of a labor dispute.

On August 1, in the middle of contract negotiations, the auction house locked out forty-three members of Teamsters 814, the Sotheby’s art handlers’ union. In an excerpt from Occupy Wall Street’s press release, available on, the organization summarizes the workers’ grievances as such:

“[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.”

The stalled contract negotiations come in the midst of a very lucrative year for Sotheby’s. 2011 has proven thus far to be the auction house’s most profitable year ever; according to the union, CEO Bill Ruprecht makes $60,000 a day.

During the protest, members of Occupy Wall Street stood up one by one to announce their demands. They were escorted out by security guards. Video documentation is available on and on YouTube.

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