Contact Us

Union Drive At SHoP Architects Called Off Amid Lack Of Support

Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a famous design by SHoP Architects, recently the subject of an unsuccessful union drive.

A union drive at New York City-based SHoP Architects, a high-profile labor action and the first of its kind in the industry for decades, has failed.

Organizers posted a message on Twitter Thursday noting that the “difficult unionizing attempt was met with a powerful anti-union campaign,” leading to the decision to “pursue another route for positive change within our office at the time.”

The SHoP organizers, who gave their group the name Architectural Workers United, and their supporters said they were hoping to address the industry's low compensation and long hours, joining an increasingly large rank of professional groups seeing to organize. SHoP workers were attempting to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

AWU's platform included increasing diversity and inclusion at SHoP — an issue with which both architecture and the larger commercial real estate industry have struggled —and addressing environmental and social justice concerns.

In their statement, the organizers suggested that pressure from leadership led to many who supported the union drive to seek alternative means of improving conditions for staff — although AWU said none have been identified.

The group said it “ignited a critically important conversation,” and the organizers “look forward to a day when our profession isn’t so deeply marred by exploitation and burnout.”

A SHoP spokesperson sent the following statement from the firm:

"The decision by the International Association of Machinists and the Architecture Workers United to withdraw their NLRB election petition reflects our staff’s clear desire to determine our collective future together as an employee-owned firm. Any allegations of bad faith campaigning are unfounded and an attempt to undermine the strong majority of SHoP employees who made their views known."

Karen Nussbaum, a longtime labor leader, told Bisnow last month she thought a victory might have led to more drives and targeted efforts by organized labor at architecture firms. AWU leaders told The New York Times there were two other firms, as yet unidentified, with similar drives underway. 

“There’s nothing that holds it at bay if workers are getting paid market value, but not what they feel they’re worth,” Nussbaum said of the union drive and larger movement in the industry. “The housing and real estate industry should be worried.”