Sotheby’s discovers the costs of being anti-union
You may recall my earlier post about the protest we mounted recently in solidarity with Teamsters Local 814 in New York, over the locking out of 42 art handlers by Sotheby’s NY. At that stage, there seemed to be some suggestion that the protest had affected sales at the evening auction, which were at the lower end of Sotheby’s expectations. However, regular readers may know there’s something of an economic crisis going on, and that might have explained the relatively low sales. But now our suspicions have been confirmed – our protest does indeed seem to have hit Sotheby’s at the cash tills, demonstrating that the savings Sotheby’s are trying to make by slashing workers’ terms and conditions are a false economy and could end up costing the company not only its good name, but hard cash.
The evidence comes in the relative success of two other auctions at about the same time. In the afternoon, before our protesters arrived, Sotheby’s made more than expected from a sale of 20th century Italian art. But their prestigious modern art sale that evening, when we were chanting and blowing whistles outside, almost a dozen lots failed to sell at all, and those that did sold for much less than Sotheby’s hoped. Then, the next evening at the more union-friendly Christie’s, a similar sale again performed better than expected. The only difference we can see is that the afternoon sale at Sotheby’s and the evening sale at Christie’s were protest free. So, let the seller beware! Putting your family heirloom in the hands of an anti-union auctioneer could see you seriously out of pocket.
Anyone wanting to donate an old master – or something more modern – to the Teamsters strike fund should get in touch! Alternatively, send Sotheby’s UK a message about how they should settle their dispute with the Teamsters.