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Union v Washington Ballet
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Author:  Azlan [ Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:28 am ]
Post subject:  Union v Washington Ballet

Union Claims Washington Ballet Won't Let Dancers Unionize

By Ben Mattison

The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents dancers and singers, has accused Washington Ballet of attempting to prevent its dancers from unionizing. <a href= target=_blank>more</a>
<center><font size=-2>[Edited to fix tyop in "Subject" field]</font></center>

<small>[ 14 March 2005, 01:18 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Feb 17, 2005 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Union v Washington Ballet

In a Valentine's Day message to management, Washington Ballet dancers voted 18-2 in favor of AGMA representation. Roger Armbrust reports in

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 10:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Union v Washington Ballet

Retribution is never far behind. Paul Ben-Izak reports in Dance Insider:

<small>[ 14 March 2005, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: Francis Timlin ]</small>

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Union v Washington Ballet

A boss o' mine once told me, in conversation, that if employees want union protection, that means they don't trust management to take care of them.

The irony: at the time, he was General Manager of Washington Ballet.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Union v Washington Ballet

More on the current situation from Roger Armbrust in

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 18, 2005 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Union v Washington Ballet

In the most recent imbroglio, management has cancelled a tour to Italy because of an inability to come to agreement over the terms of the dancers' per diem compensation. Sarah Kaufman reports in the Washington Post:

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 20, 2005 2:32 pm ]
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AGMA has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint with the NLRB in response to Washington Ballet's cancellation of the Italian tour over a disagreement about per diem. Ben Mattison reports in Playbill:

Author:  BabsLights [ Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:24 pm ]
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The initial NLRB ruling about that allowed proceeding to the election is located at

It's an interesting read, as there was a proposal that because the dancers were not full-time, they could not hold the election. In addition there is discussion about the two dancers who serve as rehearsal assistants and whether or not they were supervisors (and therefore not part of the bargaining unit). I think the company has put itself in a precarious situation by not renewing the contracts of the only two dancers who testified to the NLRB. This will be an interesting story to follow.

I also looked up the maximum per diems the gov allows for Italy. It's a wide range depending on the city, but I did find that Florence was listed at $151/day. I was initially figuring that there was some fudging going on with facts and that the room rates were combined with the ME&I rates, but, no, if housing was included the amount suggested would be even higher.

One thing, however, I learned years ago from people arguing in support of the CONUS rates for this country to be the rates by which a dance company follows is that if you are arguing for the top dollar better be equally prepared to follow the standard for the locations that the government says are less expensive. It can, and will, get you the other direction as well.

Author:  citibob [ Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:24 pm ]
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I find $151 to be absolutely astounding. Consider that New York's IRS Per Diem rate is just over $50 --- and it's really easy to eat for a whole lot less. Anyway, I suppose it's possible that there are places that are more expensive than new York.

So how much does the Union's request come out to be on the company's bottom line? 20 dancers x $100/day = $2000/day is the size of the dispute. How long were they going to stay in Italy, for "essentially 3 performances?" If one week, that's $14,000. If two weeks, $28,000.

The projected deficit was already $90,000 --- and that could easily have ballooned if their seating estimates/hopes were off. Paying $150/day for the per diem would have changed that to $100,000 or $110,000. I find it easy to believe that the trip was cancelled because they really, honestly, no longer felt comfortable spending that kind of money --- and not in retaliation to the dancers. As was mentioned, there were other "poorly planned" aspects of the trips.

For better or for worse, the recent unionization also took time away from planning the trip, fundraising, etc. The long-term result for the dancers will almost certainly be good, but I'm sure that even a "friendly" unionization drive (if there is one) stretches everyone in the office.

This brings one to the issue of touring in general. Taking a company on tour involves spending large amounts of money on things other than dance. Furthermore, it's often hard to distinguish one ballet company from the next, artistically, at least in America. This would be an argument to tour sparingly.

As for the dancers who were let go: the whole thing reminds me of a place I used to work. That management style makes it very hard to do your art. The sooner you can leave and find a better job, the better. I wish those two all the best.

Author:  osiris661 [ Wed Apr 27, 2005 9:45 am ]
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Hate to say it but "don't cut off your nose to spite your face".

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Fri Apr 29, 2005 2:18 am ]
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I suspect that if the relationship between the dancers and management had been one of mutual trust and respect, the dancers might have been more flexible on the per diem.

Author:  BabsLights [ Tue May 03, 2005 4:41 pm ]
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News Italia Press
Washington Ballet's Italian Faux Pas De Deux

3 maggio 2005 - By Daniel Williams,Sarah Kaufman-TheWashingtonPost

FLORENCE, Italy -- The Italians have a phrase for the Washington Ballet's cancellation of its summer tour to Italy: "Brutta figura." Or just "Figuraccia." Both mean doing something shameful, tacky, cutting a sorry figure, as in "Il Washington Ballet ha fatto una figuraccia."
It was not only the company's abrupt cancellation of its July performances at three Italian dance festivals that hurt. It was also the timing and the style, especially in a country and in an art where form matters. And even U.S. diplomats say that, given the political climate, the sudden withdrawal of a Washington institution from a European event can have implications beyond the dance world.


Author:  mehunt [ Fri May 06, 2005 1:42 pm ]
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For those who are interested in per diem rates you can find them on the US State Dept.'s website:

For Washington Ballet the relevant figures would probably be the M&IE (second column) which is the per diem for meals and incidental expenses, but doesn't include hotels. For Rome the suggested rate is 168USD. Planning a trip myself to Europe and I have to say, I could well believe that the average meal and incidental costs for Italy will be quite high.

Here's what they say on their site about per diems:

The foreign travel per diem allowance is a payment in lieu of reimbursement for actual subsistence expenses. It is provided to an employee and eligible dependents for daily expenses while on temporary travel status in the listed localities on official business away from an official post or assignment. The established rates are maximum amounts. Under travel regulations implemented by the General Services Administration and individual federal agencies, authorizing officials are required to reduce the maximum rates when necessary to maintain a level of payment consistent with necessary travel expenses.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue May 10, 2005 7:18 pm ]
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An update on the latest negotiations concerning resurrecting the Italian tour, by Emily Quinn in Playbill:

Author:  osiris661 [ Thu May 12, 2005 12:11 pm ]
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They may be able to get the tour going again but the bigger issue at stake is the reputation of Washington Ballet as well as AGMA. Both organizations' reputations have been seriously tarnished by these recent events and hopefully some sort of middle ground can be found. After all, nobody wins in a strike.

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