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Glitzy Sotheby’s Auction Invaded by Labor Reality

Manny Jalonschi Oct 12, 2011

Over the course of 80 minutes on Oct 11th, ten Occupy Wall Street protesters intermittently disrupted the Tuesday afternoon auction at Sotheby’s, a high end art house that has locked out workers from Teamster Local 814. This was the second time activists from the protest city at Zuccotti Park in the Financial District have joined forces with the locked out workers.

Workers from Local 814 have been locked out since August 1st, when Sotheby’s demanded an end to collective bargaining as well as the termination of healthcare and job security. The 43 unionized art handlers, who mange Sotheby’s wares from purchase to re-sale, have found solidarity with the anti-corporate protesters at Liberty Plaza.

“If Wall Street is where the financial elite make their money, Sotheby’s is one of the places they spend it,” said adjunct biology professor Michael Friedman, who participated in this second round of auction interruptions. “It’s a playground for the rich and famous who destroyed our economy.”

In an official statement, the group that invaded Sotheby’s reminded the public that it has been a historically profitable year for the company, with CEO Bill Ruprecht earning approximately $60,000 a day. Meanwhile, despite $680 million in profits last year, workers were asked to give up their 401k retirement plans and accept a reduction in work hours that would have amounted to a 10 percent pay-cut.

The protesters, who were disguised as bidders at the start of auction, waited for the afternoon’s bidding to begin to make their statement. Then, one by one, amid the flea market of multi-million dollar trinkets of the 1 percent, they stood up shouting phrases like “end the lockout” and “make wall street pay.” Some brought their foghorns. While no arrests were made, all protesters were escorted off the premises by security.

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