Backstage has this article today. The negotiations now involve a federal mediator. After meeting 17 times they still do not have a deal.
“We’re going to take the position every place that when the singers are the product or the dancers are the product they deserve better than anyone else,” said Alan Gordon, national executive director of AGMA. “We don’t want you to give less to anybody, but we don’t care what you give them because we want more.”
In other words, no matter what SFB offers, the union will not accept it because the negotiator wants even more. It is a very aggressive position to take, and I do understand that the Bay is shockingly expensive. His next comment does not match reality for me:
In San Francisco, the company’s some 70 dancers work 42 weeks a year, compared with 20 for the musicians, according to the union.
Gordon said that has to change.
“Orchestras have always been paid better than opera singers or ballet dancers, and we think that’s wrong,” he said. “People don’t go to the ballet to hear the orchestra. They go to the ballet to see the dancers.”
Musicians practice their instruments outside of official rehearsals (usually just the dress rehearsal is paid for by the ballet company). They are paid to bring first rate musicianship to each performance - but they are not paid for the practices that enable that first rate musicianship.
In contrast, dancers are paid for their rehearsal time, 6 days a week, for 42 weeks.
I believe people *do* go to the ballet to hear the Orchestra. They go for the full experience: dance, orchestra, beautiful sets and beautiful costumes. Look at the reviews for companies that don't have live orchestras, there are always comments that it was "less than" a true ballet experience, because there was no orchestra.
“We don’t care what you did for the orchestra. The orchestra’s irrelevant; they could be replaced tomorrow by a computer or a record. We’re entitled to more because we are the product,” he said.
Gordon insisted the tension with management—rare in the ballet world—doesn’t have to do with money. “We see it in terms of showing some respect for the dancers,” he said. “We want some demonstrable evidence that the company is willing to treat the dancers better than everybody else.”
If the orchestra is irrelevant, why does he keep bringing it up? It cannot be replaced tomorrow by a computer or record. 2/3 of the audience would stop their season ticket membership if they tried that at SFB. The problem is that the negotiator finds the orchestra completely relevant. But they are relevant in a different employment structure. They are paid by a performance week, rather than paid by their practice time. I think if someone looked into the orchestra's practice time - individually, in sections, plus formal rehearsal time and opera house nights - it would indeed add up to 42 weeks / year.
I think the union has valid points regarding compensation levels, but their negotiator is using a straw man argument in the interview.