News & Politics

Pickled Protest at LES Tenement Museum


Pickles picketed for part-time workers at a May Day protest at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where educators and tour guides have been seeking recognition for a their union for a year and a half.

Union leaders from UAW 2110, which represents the workers, celebrated May Day by handing out free pickles and singing old time union songs outside the museum’s visitor’s center and gift shop on Orchard Street.

“This is a great institution, but the working conditions are unsustainable. There’s a revolving door of people leaving” said Lily Paulina, a educator and costumed interpreter at the museum.

The union began its organizing drive about a year and a half ago, with a request for benefits, a merit-based pay system, and a fair disciplinary process. According to members at the protest, the management of the museum has refused to recognize the union.

“A lot of people were getting fired and we didn’t know why” said Lethia Nall, a union organizer and long time tour guide. “I’ve been here five years, and I never got a raise until the union.”

The pickled protest was meant to connect to a bit of Lower East Side history as part of the museum’s mission to connect with the past and make it come alive, according to Paulina.

“We love the visitors, and we wanted to entertain them” said Nall. “We wanted to find different ways of saying that we aren’t going away.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 1, 2008

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