Protests follow Marciano Art Foundation’s closure, employees cite discrimination

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Dozens of fired employees protested in front of the now-shuttered Marciano Art Foundation in Mid City on Friday. 

The gallery opened three years ago, making it one of the newest free art spaces in LA. 

Former employees say the shutdown was a direct result of employees publicly announcing an intent to unionize.

Sixty of the 70 fired employees had voted to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee union.

Union organizers have since filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, on the grounds of illgeal discrimination.They state that Marciano “has illegally discriminated against its employees by laying off employees en masse and/or closing its facility.”

Raul Azarte, an organizing union member, said people in the art industry need more support.

Raul Azarte, an organizing union member, has worked at Marciano for more than two years.  He wants art institutions to appreciate and invest in their employees.  

“This is a comment on how art institutions perceive labor. Labor is labor,” he says. “Your workers are what make your institutions ... treat them with respect.”

Shuttering the foundation  affects more than employees, suggests Chinela Ufondu, who used to work at Marciano.

“It also affects the LA community. This is a free art museum, and it allows accessibility for the community to come in and to view this art without a $25 fee or anything like that,” Ufondu says.

In March, union organizers began building support and pushing for working conditions, which included better wages and scheduling transparency. That’s according to Izzy Johnson, a docent at the foundation. She adds that  conditions at the Marciano represent how labor is treated overall in the arts industry. 

“We are not treated with dignity and respect .. and expected to provide this educational component and an enriching experience for visitors,” Johnson says. “And yet, we are not fairly compensated, and are essentially treated as disposal bodies in the space.” 

The Marciano Art Foundation told The LA Times it has no current plans to reopen. 

Protests are expected to continue into next week.