Dezeen Magazine

bernheimer union team

Bernheimer Architecture becomes first US private-sector architecture studio to unionize

New York studio Bernheimer Architecture has announced that its employees will join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, making it the first private-sector architecture studio in the US to unionize.

It was announced yesterday that the employees at Bernheimer Architecture would unionize the studio, advocating for respect and transparency in the relationship between owners and workers.

"The staff and management of Bernheimer Architecture are proud to announce that the employees of Bernheimer have organized the first private sector union of architectural professionals in the United States under a voluntary recognition agreement," said the organizers in an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) statement.

The affiliation between the Bernheimer Architecture employees and the IAMAW was organized with Architectural Workers United – a group that seeks to facilitate the unionization of architecture firms.

"We recognize that both the employer and employees in the field of architectural work face constraints and challenges beyond the control of any individual firm and that by working together we can uplift the profession and industry in ways that we could not by acting alone," said the statement from the studio's workers.

"Uncharted territory" for private studios

Although workers at Bernheimer Architecture believed that they are being fairly compensated and work reasonable hours, they thought that unionization would spark conversations concerning labour issues in the industry at large.

The announcement acknowledged that the studio was heading into "uncharted territory" and asked that "other practices join us in this endeavor to reshape the industry at large".

The "voluntary recognition agreement" aspect means that the management of the company agreed to the unionization effort. Without such an agreement, a workplace usually holds secret ballots when considering unionization.

"We'll provide better architecture"

Bernheimer Architecture principal Andrew Bernheimer told the New York Times that he and his studio "know that architecture is a discipline and profession that has a legacy of exploitation".

"I truly believe [the unionization] makes our place better, that we'll provide better architecture," he continued.

Discussions over unionization are growing in the US, where SHoP Architects' employee's unsuccessfully attempted to unionize earlier this year.

"Working conditions throughout the industry are, on the whole, crushing," wrote Andrew Daley in an examination of architectural labour for Dezeen.

"Our project managers are stretched thin, attempting to keep everyone happy, at the expense of the workers executing the projects," Daley continued.

The photograph show the Bernheimer Architecture team.