Sotheby's locks out art handlers, picketing ensues

  • Sotheby's headquarters in New York.

    Sotheby's headquarters in New York.

Art handlers locked out by Sotheby's over a contract dispute picketed the Upper East Side auction house early this week.

The contract between the handlers' union, Teamsters Local 814, and the auction house's Manhattan headquarters ended in July. An agreement was not reached. On Friday, Sotheby's hired temporary workers to replace the 43 experienced art handlers.

Sotheby's wants to cut wages and hours of art handlers, and reduce full-time jobs while hiring more non-union workers as art handlers.

Local 814 President Jason Ide said in a statement, "Putting multi-million dollar works in the hands of a temporary crew is not a good idea."

Union members maintain that concessions are not necessary since Sotheby's sales increased by 74%, to $4.8 billion in 2010, with gross profits of $680 million. Sotheby's CEO William Ruprecht's compensation more than doubled in 2010, reaching almost $6 million.

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