Snøhetta New York’s unionisation efforts aimed at “industry-wide issues”

Employees at the New York office of architecture firm Snøhetta have announced a bid to unionise the studio, which would make it the second private-sector architecture studio in the United States to do so.

Early this week, workers at Snøhetta‘s New York office announced that they had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – a first step in the process to formalise a business place’s relationship with a union.

The petition would allow employees to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“We are committed to our studio’s success”

“We are architects, landscape architects, designers and operations staff who care deeply for Snøhetta, our projects, and the collaborative culture that makes our firm unique,” said members of the studio in a statement released through Architectural Workers United (AWU) – a group that aids architecture workers in the union process.

“We are proud of our work at Snøhetta and we are committed to our studio’s success,” the statement continued. “Through unionization, we will gain a collective voice in the future of our workplace and our profession.”

If successful, the studio may become the second in the United States to form a union, following Brooklyn-based Bernheimer Architecture, which formed a union last fall.

Snøhetta’s other main office is in Oslo, Norway, and by contrast The Norwegian Union of Architects (AFAG) has 5,700 members.

Snøhetta supports “right to seek self-determination”

When asked for a statement, Snøhetta’s leadership said that they supported the decision, noting that they felt the announcement was aimed more towards issues in the industry in general, rather than at the studio itself.

“Snøhetta in the US supports our employees’ right to seek self-determination,” said the studio.

“We look forward to working with this group to better understand what joining a union might mean for the firm, our culture, our business, and our entire team,” it continued.

“We have been told that their focus is on addressing industry-wide issues rather than challenges specifically within our studio.”

In order for the NLRB to verify a union petition, 30 per cent of a company must support it. According to Snøhetta’s website, more than 70 people are currently employed at the studio.

After the petition is verified, members of the company will campaign for and against the movement, and ultimately vote. A majority is required for the motion to pass.

Last year, Brooklyn-based AWU organizer Andrew Daley wrote an opinion piece for Dezeen calling on workers to reject the “follow your personal passion” excuse for unfair labour practices.

“We are told that in order to succeed we must see our job as our passion. This platitude negates the quintessential reality of our professional lives: we are workers first and foremost,” he said. “The only legally protected way for power to be shifted to workers is through unionizing.”

Snøhetta was founded in 1989 and has other offices in Paris, Hong Kong, Innsbruck and Adelaide.

Photo of Snøhetta’s Time Square redesign by Michael Grimm.

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