Employees at one of New York’s top architecture firms are reportedly poised to lead a change in the industry.
Well over half of SHoP Architects’ eligible employees have pledged support for a union, organizers told The New York Times. David DiMaria, an organizer for the union the employees hope to affiliate with, told the outlet architects at two other prominent New York firms are also in the process of organizing.
SHoP has earned numerous accolades since its founding in 1996. The firm, which currently counts 135 employees, earned a name through its work on the Barclays Center, 111 West 57th Street and the American Copper Buildings.
If successful, SHoP employees would form the most prominent union at a private-sector architecture firm in the United States. The union is seeking voluntary recognition and aims to affiliate with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, according to the Times.
Among supporters’ concerns are the industry-wide burden of long hours and little pay. Employees told the Times they work 50 hours per week on average, even more while under deadlines. Junior employees make between $50,000 and $80,000 a year, but the field’s educational requirements mean student debt often outpaces earnings.
“Many of us feel pushed to the limits of our productivity and mental health,” Architectural Workers United, formed by backers of the union, wrote to the firm’s leadership. “SHoP is the firm that can begin to enact changes that will eventually ensure a more healthy and equitable future.”
The Times reports that the campaign first emerged in Fall 2020, when employees witnessed layoffs and weighed their experiences with remote work.
The union’s policy priorities would include changes to the overtime policy, such as giving an employee one hour off after every two hours of overtime worked.
The firm has not said whether or not it would recognize the union, but said in a statement it “was founded to practice architecture differently and has always been interested in empowering and supporting our staff.”
[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner