State of the Union

Meow Wolf union attempts to garner online support as contract remains unsigned and anti-union language appears in job listing

The social media posts started popping up last week in the lead-up to Labor Day.

In text-heavy images on Instagram spearheaded by the Meow Wolf Workers Collective, members urge the public to respectfully approach the company’s top brass through social media channels to express dismay over what the union considers stalling.

The collective represents workers for the Santa Fe-based arts corporation. It was approved as an affiliate of the Communication Workers of America by Meow Wolf employees last October.

As it stands, they say in the posts, Meow Wolf’s office of the CEO (or OCEO, composed of dual CEOs Ali Rubinstein and Carl Christensen) have continually balked at negotiations or pushed back bargaining meetings, and neither party has agreed on a contract.

We’ve been bargaining with Meow Wolf for about 6 months - how’s it going? Management has been reluctant to negotiate proposals beyond what is legally required of them. This is deeply unprogressive and counter to Meow Wolf’s mission. Management has also delayed our next meeting until October. Workers have waited long enough for Meow Wolf to meet our needs on their own. It’s time for a fair contract now. Reach out to Meow Wolf on any of their social media pages (IG, Twitter, Facebook), and let them know you support their workers, and expect management to bargain in good faith with us. Thank you as always for your action, support, and encouragement. 💛🍌 Check back soon for deeper dives and more updates

There’s evidence that the company might not be approaching the collective in good faith, one of New Mexico’s top labor lawyers tells SFR.

A job listing for a human resources director position at Meow Wolf that went up Wednesday contained what could easily be construed as anti-union language. Under a list of job accountabilities and responsibilities, the company included: “effectively manage labor union relationships and implement effective union avoidance campaigns in union-free parts of the organization.”

That language was later removed from the listing after SFR posed a question to Meow Wolf about its intent, though not before SFR nabbed a screenshot:

Screenshot of Meow Wolf job listing featuring various job responsibilities, including a provision which features a bullet point which says: "Labor Relations and Union Avoidance – Effectively manages labor union relationships and implements effective union avoidance campaigns in union-free parts of the organization."

The language seems clear to Shane Youtz of Albuquerque law firm Youtz & Valdez PC, who reviewed it at SFR’s request.

“Is it illegal? No. I wouldn’t call it union-busting, but it empowers them to take certain actions to avoid its employees becoming further unionized,” Youtz says in an interview. “On its face, it sounds like they’re trying to do everything they can to avoid more organizing within the company...In a situation, for example, when somebody would be litigating with Meow Wolf over illegal activities, the union would probably use that as evidence of intent. Certainly it demonstrates anti-union animus. It seems like, in some respects, those words were chosen carefully.”

Meow Wolf’s OCEO did not respond to Youtz’ comments, but in an emailed statement from the OCEO, the company tells SFR of the union social media posts that “Meow Wolf has been bargaining in good faith with the union since March. Our last bargaining session with the Union was productive and led to agreements on several topics. This progress is a sign Meow Wolf is interested in discussion, compromise and getting to a final contract. The next bargaining session is scheduled for October as we are heads down with preparing for the opening of our third major exhibition, Convergence Station in Denver on September 17. We look forward to getting back to the bargaining table once Convergence Station has opened, and everyone at Meow Wolf has had a chance to take a breath and reflect on this great accomplishment created by the team.”

Representatives from the Meow Wolf Workers Collective declined to comment.

The timing seems particularly fraught in the weeks before Meow Wolf opens its third location in Denver later this month. The Omega Mart perma-installation in Las Vegas opened last February. Still, it’s not the first time in recent memory the company has courted controversy.

In July 2019, former and current employees in both Santa Fe and Denver attempted to put together a class action discrimination suit against Meow Wolf. That case was ultimately settled out of court last February. More recently, the company laid off 201 employees in April 2020, blaming COVID-19, though audio obtained by SFR at the time suggested those layoffs might have been in the pipeline regardless of the pandemic.

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