Meow Wolf lays off 50 Denver employees as the company reduces expenses and overall workforce

The immersive art and entertainment company announced it would eliminate 165 positions earlier this week.
6 min. read
Meow Wolf’s new building has a new sign. July 29, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Updated at 5:58 p.m. on Friday, April 19, 2024

Layoffs at Meow Wolf will impact the immersive art and entertainment group’s Denver location.

On Wednesday, 50 positions at the Convergence Station were eliminated across multiple areas of the company. 

Meow Wolf announced on Monday that it would reduce its workforce by 165 employees amid plans to cut expenses by 10%.

A total of 111 employees across the exhibition and corporate teams were cut. Roles in Denver accounting for nearly half of those eliminated positions, including creative operators, security leads and IT. 

“When we’re being run by a bunch of corporatists who live in New York City and California … we’re getting these kinds of draconian decisions like this that don’t take into account at all our community, our friends, our coworkers,” said Jerome Morrison, secretary-treasurer for Meow Wolf Workers Collective (MWWC), the union representing its employees. 

What other cost-saving measures are being taken?

In a meeting on Thursday, leaders shared that Meow Wolf’s entire executive team, including CEO Jose Tolosa and each of his direct reports, will reduce their compensation by 10% for the remainder of the year. 

“It’s not necessarily that these cuts were a result of low visitation [at Convergence Station],” said Ru Johnson, public relations manager for Denver Meow Wolf regarding Denver's layoffs. “It was based on the actual structure of the business model.”

Erin Barnes, public relations manager for Meow Wolf, more strongly attributed the cuts to flagging attendance.

“Lower than expected attendance at all Meow Wolf locations was a key part of these cuts, and Meow Wolf also made the decision in order to continue to grow sustainably,” she said in a statement to Denverite.

A musical room that Meason Wiley, director of R and D for Meow Wolf Denver, helped construct. Sept. 13, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Additional cost-saving measures include:

  • Closing Meow Wolf’s New York City office
  • Scrapping plans to open an LA office
  • Eliminating software contracts
  • Reducing spending on professional services
  • Reducing travel and other expenditures across the board by close to $1 million.

Las Vegas Meow Wolf employees spared for now

Another 54 employees from the bargaining unit in Las Vegas were also set to be eliminated, but the union “successfully paused Las Vegas Union layoffs by demanding the company fulfill its obligation to bargain changes in good faith due to the ongoing collective bargaining at that location.”

“We are working to mediate these layoffs,” MWWC added in a statement. “But in Santa Fe and Denver, Meow Wolf is choosing to continue its pattern of not bargaining in good faith and it is actively pursuing its shameful, fruitless union containment strategies.” 

Meow Wolf Denver: Convergence Station. Sept. 13, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The union statement outlined that Meow Wolf has refused to listen to their alternative suggestions to layoffs, a point included in both the Denver and Santa Fe collective bargaining agreements. These suggestions include voluntary pay decreases, resignations and limiting the number of outside contract workers. 

Morrison said there’s an issue with outside contractors being hired at higher salaries than those paid in-house. 

“Our CBA says those folks are supposed to be the first ones to be let go, particularly if it's the work of people who are within our unit,” Morrison said. “That’s one of the areas that we’re not seeing.” 

When did Meow Wolf Denver unionize?

Employees at Convergence Station in Denver announced plans to unionize in July 2022. The location originally opened in September 2021. 

Denver’s original collective bargaining agreement took into consideration what happened during the pandemic layoffs from 2019, which the company described as COVID-19-related challenges.

Morrison said employees at the time did not find any “rhyme or reason” for why the company chose to lay off certain employees when accounting for years of experience and knowledge. 

What the CEO says is 'right-sizing the business,' union leaders see as 'writing on the wall'

When Meow Wolf CEO Jose Tolosa informed employees of the layoffs via email, he said the reductions are an effort to “right-size” the business. 

“When we opened our first exhibitions, we were inventing an operating model from scratch,” Tolosa wrote. “Over the past three years, we’ve developed a better understanding of our guests and what we need to staff and support our exhibitions in order to make the most of the growth opportunities ahead, including our Houston location that opens later this year.”

Meow Wolf Denver: Convergence Station. Sept. 13, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The New Mexico-based company employs people in corporate offices located in Los Angeles and New York, as well as four exhibition spaces in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Denver and a new Dallas-Fort Worth area location that opened July 2023

The expense cuts and workforce reduction come after the company laid off eight members of its corporate team in December

According to Morrison, who has worked at Meow Wolf for more than five years, those closely watching the situation have seen “the writing on the wall” regarding Denver’s decline in visitations. 

“Our hourly workers have been drastically reduced to very minimum hours and not even really given any guaranteed schedule,” Morrison said. 

Meow Wolf Denver: Convergence Station. Sept. 13, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The MWWC has filed a number of Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), including one in Denver back in March for “Bad Faith Bargaining” that remains open.  

“In short, the company refuses to work with us when problems arise,” the statement reads. “We are calling on the company to reinstate these employees now. We are asking Meow Wolf to cease its practices of skirting the union and failing to see us as equal partners in the operations of our company.” 

In response to the Union complaints, Johnson provided the following statement:

"Meow Wolf complied with the layoff provisions of its Santa Fe CBA and its Denver CBA, by providing proper notice, considering the Union’s proposals, and providing the agreed-upon separation benefits to impacted bargaining unit members. Both collective bargaining agreements also provide that after going through this process, the final decision regarding a layoff rests with Meow Wolf."

Editor's Note: This story was updated with additional comment from Meow Wolf about the company's reasoning behind instituting workforce and spending cuts.

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