Fort Greene

‘I vote, therefore I BAM’: BAM employees to vote on union

June 13, 2019 Mary Frost
BAM's employees will vote today on whether nor not to unionize. Eagle photo by Ned Berke

Employees across several departments at the Brooklyn Academy of Music will vote today on whether or not to unionize.

Workers say joining Local 2110 UAW, the Technical, Office and Professional division of the United Auto Workers union, will make the famous Fort Greene avant-garde theater, film and performance venue stronger and more democratic.

“A union of, by, and for BAM administrative staff will give us a real seat at the table,” staffers said on their website.

The effort has been receiving some backing on social media. Composer Patricia Alessandrini, Brooklyn State Sen. Julia Salazar, the support staff at Columbia University, members of the musicians union Local 802 AFM, and even presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders voiced their support on Twitter.

“All workers benefit when the union movement grows. As someone born and raised in Brooklyn, I would be proud to see the dedicated employees of the Brooklyn Academy of Music unionize this week,” Sanders tweeted.

BAM staffers have tweeted that management has subtly tried to discourage them from unionizing by, for example, warning them that they could lose their pension by joining the union.

BAM staffer Emily Searles told LaborPress last week, “Management will send emails saying, ‘we just want you to know the facts.’ But they only highlight the negative possibilities of unionizing or misrepresenting what unions actually do for you — it’s still very one sided.”

But BAM said on Wednesday that it would respect the decision of its employees on unionization.

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“We respect the employees who are interested in forming a union and are committed to making sure every voice is heard. BAM enjoys positive relationships with its six labor unions and has always negotiated in good faith. BAM will respect the decision of our employees and will work to move forward together to advance the work of the place we all love,” the institution told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Workers say they love BAM, and they feel that unionization reflects the institution’s ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and community. While deeply serious about the cause, they’re approaching the vote with more humor than angst.

“I vote, therefore I BAM,” their online flyers read.

A majority of BAM staff signed union support cards before workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an official vote to establish “BAMunion.”

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