Asking for the arts corporation's management to "stand by its radical, progressive roots," employees of Meow Wolf announced that they intend to organize as part of the Communications Workers of America union, thereby joining a wide variety of professionals in fields like telecommunications, broadcast and cable television, education and healthcare, among others.
In a press release, organizers say a majority of current Meow Wolf employees support the unionization, now called the Meow Wolf Workers Collective, which additionally asks the company's top brass to "collaborate and honor the collective spirit that has made Meow Wolf a success."
A public website featuring much of the same information, as well as a petition to express support, has been live since February, though this is the first official comment on the matter from organizers.
"Once we're recognized, we will work with the company to negotiate a contract that represents the wellbeing of all workers in Meow Wolf. We believe this will set Meow Wolf apart from its peers in the immersive entertainment industry," organizer and Meow Wolf writer Bill Rodgers tells SFR. "Meow Wolf has been a beacon for working artists all around the world. That ideal drew many of us to Santa Fe in the first place. We want to help the company achieve that yet again."
Like most businesses, the coronavirus pandemic hit Meow Wolf hard earlier this year. In April, it announced it would eliminate more than 200 positions, claiming COVID-19 was behind the layoffs. Audio of a post-layoffs meeting leaked to SFR later indicated cuts were likely well before state health orders forced countless businesses across New Mexico to temporarily shutter.
Meow Wolf has also faced two discrimination suits in both Santa Fe and Denver last year. Those cases were ultimately settled out of court.
"Meow Wolf recognizes and respects our employees' right to organize," reads an email statement from the company's triad of CEOs, Jim Ward, Ali Rubinstein and Carl Christensen. "The policies, practices and culture already in place make our company a great place to work and we value our ability to work directly with employees. As such, we feel Meow Wolf works best without a union."
"We are happy to hear that Meow Wolf respects our legally-protected right to organize," Rodgers says in response. "We would like to push back, however, against the message that our union is a third party. This is a union built by and for Meow Wolf workers—this union is the result of the passionate work from employees who have taken on the equivalent of a part-time job to make it a reality. Moving forward, we ask the company for neutrality."
It's unclear how many employees still work for the company's permanent flagship Santa Fe installation, the House of Eternal Return, or when it will reopen, though the new exhibit "Trash Temple" by artists Corinne Loperfido and Damon Williams was built during the closure. Meow Wolf is also taking part in the Infinite Playa, a virtual Burning Man offshoot created after the annual Nevada affair was canceled due to COVID-19.
The announced Las Vegas expansion dubbed Omega Mart is reportedly set to open early next year, while the building in which it will reside, Area 15, is scheduled to open Sept. 17 with Meow Wolf on hand presenting interactive arts of some kind. The company's Denver location still does not have an opening date.
The press release from the Meow Wolf Workers Collective appears below in full:
"The workers of Meow Wolf are forming a union.
The Meow Wolf Workers Collective (MWWC) is composed of working artists in creative studios, operations staff at the House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf Santa Fe, and all other eligible workers in the company.
The MWWC is proud to join the union family of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). By unionizing, workers of Meow Wolf demand a seat at the table in matters of employment protection, diversity and inclusion, pay equity, clear paths to advancement and creativity within the company. The MWWC seeks protections from discrimination and harassment of any kind, and all other workplace matters that center around the happiness and wellbeing of Meow Wolf employees.
The MWWC is extending a hand to the company; an invitation to collaborate and honor the collective spirit that has made Meow Wolf a success. The MWWC wants to see Meow Wolf succeed. The MWWC measures success through the well-being of the workers who create art, produce experiences, and curate participation. The MWWC is proud to say the majority of Meow Wolf workers are in favor of organizing, and support grows stronger every day as organizing efforts continue.
Leadership at Meow Wolf is asked to stand by its radical, progressive roots and voluntarily recognize the MWWC today.
To the community of Santa Fe and to the people from around the world who have experienced our work, explored our worlds, danced at our parties, and supported us over the years: please show your support by signing our community petition at UnionForMeowWolf.com."