CriticalDance Forum

Strike / Lock-Out
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Author:  corrival [ Thu Dec 15, 2005 7:28 am ]
Post subject:  Strike / Lock-Out

Is this an effective way for dancers to get job security?

Tonight's 'Nutcracker' Canceled In Dispute
Washington Ballet Season in Jeopardy

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2005; Page C01

The dancers of the Washington Ballet will not perform "The Nutcracker" tonight. Instead, they'll be out in front of the Warner Theatre, picketing.

Further performances of the holiday ballet -- as well as the rest of the company's season -- are in question after management decided yesterday evening to cancel tonight's show. Executive Director Jason Palmquist said he was forced to do so because the dancers' union called a strike.

Author:  ksneds [ Thu Dec 15, 2005 10:38 am ]
Post subject: 

I don't think has so much to do with security as safety...

Almost all the other major ballet companies in the US get along very well with AGMA contracts, so there seems to be no reason that it shouldn't work at Washington Ballet. Not that I think unions are perfect, but performers like dancers who tend to be young, at the artistic mercy of one or a few powerful people and depend heavily on their bodies, need a a framework in which their health and interests are protected. And union contracts do that quite well.

It's a shame that the "Nutcracker" has become a victim, but unionization was hardly a suprise for management...


Author:  Tom Skelton [ Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:35 pm ]
Post subject: 

In his wonderful book Up the Organization, Robert Townsend says about unions:

If you don't have them, the best way to avoid them is to create a Theory Y environment (see People) where your people have a chance to realize their potential (and get recognition for their contribution) in helping the company reach its objectives.

If you already have unions, then deal with them openly and honestly. Abide by their rules. For example, be meticulous about explaining every new benefit to the delegate privately and well in advance. After all, you want your people (union or not) to have the best deal you can give them. Whether the union grabs the credit for each item is completely immaterial. Don't sell your people short--they know. And don't turn your people over to the union politician by refusing to initiate benefits on the theory that the union will demand more than you can offer anyway.

It may well be the best book ever written about managing groups of people (Its later incarnation was called Further Up the Organization). I strongly recommend it to anyone who has to choreograph, direct, stage manage, or otherwise supervise any sized group of people.

Author:  corrival [ Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:10 am ]
Post subject: 

More on the strike/lockout:
All Toes Point To the Picket Line
'Nutcracker' Hopes Dashed 2nd Night

By Sarah Kaufman and Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 16, 2005; Page C01

For the second night in a row, the Washington Ballet has canceled its "Nutcracker" performance because of labor strife. It announced last evening that it would scrap tonight's show -- just as its dancers, dressed in coats and boots instead of costumes, were throwing up a picket line on the slick sidewalk outside the show's venue, the Warner Theatre.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:40 am ]
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One does have a sense of powerful people locking horns here and relations soured so that useful discussions becone even harder.

In the Uk we have ACAS to help resolve disputes as an honest broker. Here is some information about their conflict reolution work:

Do you have anything like this in the US?

"The Nutcraker" period is notorious for exhausting dancers and causing injury, even repetitive strain injuries. English National Ballet once did 50+ performances in one year. As time passes it's inevitable that ballet companies have to come in line with safety arrangement and other employment legislation. I'm thinking of the rude awakening that National Ballet of Cananda had over the Kimberly Glasco affair.

Let's hope the two sides can at least start talking, but it looks as though a facilitation service would be helpful.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:14 am ]
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Sad News. Washington Ballet has cancelled their Nutcracker. The backlash from the public could be devastating. Could this be the end of Washington Ballet? I suspect their better dancers will be looking for work elsewhere before they shut down their season. Obviously, they need an arbitrator to help them settle the dispute.

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:23 am ]
Post subject: 

Stuart, we do have arbitration here in the States, but in most cases, it's voluntary.

If I were slightly more cynical than I am, I might speculate on the possibility that this might possibly be a "union-busting" tactic on the part of management.

I have no data on which to base any such speculation, but it's not an unheard-of gambit.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:57 am ]
Post subject: 

A sad state of affairs, indeed.

The ballet's operating budget for the 2005-06 season is $7.3 million.

Closing the show "will affect our bottom line hugely," she said. "We've offered to refund money to people who have bought tickets, so that's probably around a million dollars that we've projected that we won't get."

That is a BIG chunk of annual revenue.

Two related points emerge:

1. There seems to have been a complete communication breakdown between the two sides.

2. In particular, they cannot even agree about the current status of the dispute or how to go forward.

Overall it's a classic case of poorly handled change management. It was clear that going down the AGMA route would involve new approaches and a change of culture and power relations, but it looks as though this came as a shock to some people.

Arbitration/facilitation is optional here as well, but seems to be used a lot. One can only hope that the two sides in this dispute find a way to reopen meaningful talks. Let's hope there will be a Washington Ballet this time next year.

Author:  Guest [ Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:56 pm ]
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I can't believe it, I just heard that the company has now officially cancelled ALL Nutcracker performances, or ateleast that is what NBC 4 is reporting. What a complete mess! This company is in for some rocky months ahead to say the very east. AGMA has failed its members by allowing this to happen, additionally, Washington Ballet has failed its dancers and audience members by allowing this to happen. NOBODY wins in this type of a situation, there are only degrees of loosing and if both parties involved, (AGMA and Wash Ballet) think that the cancellation of Nutcracker is as bad as it is going to get then they are gravely mistaken. Not only will the organization loose out on ticket sales of Nutcracker but this will severely tarnish the community's view of Washington Ballet as a viable organization/entity. This will affect ALL aspects of future board solicitation, retention, fund raising, and development. I mean, who will want to be a board member of an organization that has picketers and a giant rat outside of the theatre chanting about how they are being mistreated? These dancers are now going to be laid off, or locked out, or whatever term you want to use, for me I simply call it "unemployment", in an industry where there is no overabundance of jobs to speak of. Maybe a scattered few will find a gig but for the most part the majority of these dancers are just going to suffer. If, and that looks like a BIG if, they actually come back to work anytime soon they stand to have a significantly shorter season because of the loss of funding. The next two years of development and budget retention are almost certainly going to be diminished due to this current situation. AGMA's hopes for dancer number retention and salaries just flew out the window and I can't believe that they allowed it to happen. How can anyone on either side of the fence have allowed this to get to this point? Well, the more I think about it, maybe the dancers and AGMA seriously want to close the company, if that is the case then they are right on track. Such a crazy business this is :roll:

Author:  salzberg [ Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

AGMA's hopes for dancer number retention and salaries just flew out the window and I can't believe that they allowed it to happen

Just out of curiousity, how would you have suggested that AGMA avoid it?

Author:  corrival [ Mon Dec 19, 2005 8:33 am ]
Post subject: 

I am so upset. The Washington Ballet was really becoming a company with presence and a distinctive style that this coming season looked to enhance. Now, who knows what will happen? I guess I should start looking into getting refunds for my season tickets.

Author:  osiris661 [ Tue Dec 20, 2005 1:24 pm ]
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Is anyone following the NYC transit workers' strike going on right now? It is interesting to look at these two labor related situations. They are similar but also completely different. I did find an interesting quote though from an article in the New York Times today, 12-20-05 (I hope I am allowed to do this :?

"Some New Yorkers backed the transit workers, some saw them as greedy lawbreakers, and some said that both sides in the negotiations deserved the public's disdain."

I am sure that the same sentiments in this quote could be said of the Washington Ballet ticket buyers and patrons. Only difference being, the Washington Ballet can't afford the latter two opinions.

A familiar term keeps comes to my mind in all this which goes for both sides, "don't cut off your nose to spite your face" :( .

I hope everybody goes back to work soon!

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Dec 20, 2005 3:44 pm ]
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Is anyone following the NYC transit workers' strike

Unfortunately, yes; I was stuck in it today.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:25 pm ]
Post subject: 

Judged by the response to this topic, 2 posters from the Washington area, I believe it is safe to state that life will go in Washington. People will find some other entertainment to spend their money on. Ballet is one business which cannot afford a strike/lock-out-whatever you want to call it.

I find it very disturbing that the people who create on this earth, the people who do the actual work are usually paid the least and treated the worst. Sadly, ballet is a very secretive, elitist world and poorly covered by the press.

Author:  corrival [ Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:35 am ]
Post subject: 

It's true we get a fair amount of ballet from the tours and are close enough to NY that one could fly, drive or take a train or bus up for a show.
But I don't want to lose our own company, they were beginning to get some credibility as a national company rather than just a local, provincial company. Whose fault is it? I don't know, I don't think one can put the entire blame on either side there are always valid points on both sides of the arguement. If the company does survive this it won't be the same, some people are going to be gone, either dancers or administrative or both, and even if no-one leaves immediately things will be different.
I was so looking forward to this season it had such promise!

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