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Labor Pains at TWB


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In today's edition of the Washington Post there was an article about ongoing labor problems at The Washington Ballet. Apparently the dancers' union is at an impasse with the company -- and it may lead to a strike.

Washington Post - December 14

Has anyone heard whether a settlement has been reached??? It must be terrible for the professional and student dancers who have spent so many long hours rehearsing to be faced with a potential shut-down of their Nutcracker. Let's hope a settlement can be reached soon.

[Moderator's note: Edited to correct link]

Edited by carbro
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Donning Moderator's cap

We'll have to wait until an *official* statement is issued from either the WB or the union. (These things are usually presented jointly.) Given the heat and delicacy of the situation, a word-of-mouth post in so public a forum as BT could be harmful and/or misleading.

Of course, any official updates from either party involved here -- or from a reliable news source -- would be very welcome. Please link!

Best wishes to both sides for a quick and mutually satisfactory resolution.

Doffing Mod's cap

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Of course, vagansmom, we may read the actual article and comment on it --wiithout speculating.

The company suspended rehearsals yesterday and today, and refused to sign an interim agreement proposed by the dancers' union, the American Guild of Musical Artists. The dancers have been working for more than a year with the AGMA to produce their first-ever work contract with the ballet company.
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According to the company's website, I'm sorry to report that tomorrow's performance has been cancelled:


Issued December 14, 2005, 5:00 p.m.

Despite the utmost efforts of The Washington Ballet to satisfy the concerns of the

dancers of The Washington Ballet – including agreeing to sign an Interim Agreement to enable the parties to continue bargaining without interruption – the American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO, which represents the dancers, has informed the company that it will strike The Nutcracker beginning on Thursday, December 15. In light of this tragic news and out of responsibility to its patrons, The Washington Ballet must regrettably cancel its December 15th, 7 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker.

“A strike by the dancers of The Washington Ballet is profoundly devastating not only for the entire institution, but for the community and for the families and friends of our performers,” said Jason Palmquist, Executive Director. “We have been negotiating with the dancers in good faith and wish for those conversations to continue. If AGMA and the dancers would call off this ill-advised strike and provide The Washington Ballet with assurances that The Nutcracker will be presented as scheduled, our hope is that future performances this holiday season can be saved.”

Patrons holding tickets for Thursday’s 7 p.m. performance should follow the specific directions below to exchange tickets or receive a refund: [omitted here].

In the interest of expediency, forgive me if the link doesn't work quite right.

Washington Ballet Press Release

Edited by AG
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This just in:



Washington, DC—Prompted by the continuation of its dancers’ strike, The Washington Ballet has been forced to cancel its Friday evening, December 16th performance of The Nutcracker. The American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO (AGMA) informed The Washington Ballet at 5:00pm today that the dancers would not show up to perform tomorrow evening.

“The Washington Ballet is saddened and disappointed that the dancers have chosen this time of year and these performances to walk out. We are hopeful that we can bring this situation to a resolution and salvage the remainder of the run,” stated Jason Palmquist, Executive Director of The Washington Ballet.

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Today's Post story says:

"'We want them to stop striking,' [WB board president] Kendall said. 'And we want them to give us a proposal that we can accept. . . . They put a gun to our heads. . . . We want everything to be there for the dancers, but we have to protect our artistic director also.'"

"The issues are not primarily about money, but about how much control Artistic Director Septime Webre should have over matters ranging from hiring and firing to how rehearsals are conducted to the size of the company and how students from the Washington School of Ballet can be used in productions."

Perhaps management and the dancers should move beyond the "protect" and "control" rhetoric. Right now everyone, including Nutcracker-goers, seems to be losing.

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Yes, it's official. Here's the press release:



Washington, DC—Prompted by the continuation of its dancers’ strike, The Washington Ballet has been forced to cancel all remaining performances of The Nutcracker. The American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO (AGMA) informed The Washington Ballet yesterday that the dancers will not show up to perform.

“AGMA’s strike and its resulting effect on public perception is devastating, leaving us with no choice but to close the production,” stated Jason Palmquist, Executive Director of The Washington Ballet.

“It is with profound regret that we are forced to close The Nutcracker and disappoint hundreds of local families who participate in this annual tradition,” said Kay Kendall, President of the Board of The Washington Ballet.

For ticket refunds:

· If you purchased tickets via the web OR by phone from TicketMaster: You will automatically receive a refund and this will appear on your next billing statement. If you purchased via phone or web and need more information, please call 202.397.7328.

· If purchased via The Washington Ballet: Mail your tickets to The Washington Ballet, 3515 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016 by Jan. 9th for a full refund. Be sure to include your contact information. If you purchased through The Washington Ballet and need more information, press 605 now.

· If purchased at a TicketMaster outlet including Warner Theatre, Please visit that same outlet for a refund OR call TicketMaster for more information at 202.397.SEAT (7328).

· If you purchased through TicketPlace, please visit TicketPlace to receive a refund.

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According to the Washington Post (in today's LINKS).



"The dancers were to begin rehearsals Jan. 3 for their next production, "The Bach/Beatles Project," slated to open a five-day run at the Kennedy Center on Feb. 1. That schedule is now in doubt, Palmquist said.

"The dancers are still on strike," he said, "so we have no assurances that they would even be available for rehearsals. We are currently evaluating the effect of having to cancel 'The Nutcracker' on our ability to make the rest of the season happen."


I realize that management and union are both, to an extent, engaged in public relations exercises -- and that control of the vocabulary is a major way one can control the debate. But -- isn't "strike" something that has to be voted on and declared by the workers? Which hasn't happened. Very strange. As is the manipulation of language in the current NYC transit strike.

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I thought that I read in one of the newspaper articles that the dancers did vote to strike. And one of the issues mentioned in the papers was that the dancers supporting these actions were feeling threatened by company management for vocalizing their dissatisfactions. I am so sorry for all at WB. And lets hope that they can work out all their differences.

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The Post article mentions the following:


"In general, money is not the source of the dispute as much as control over rehearsals, hiring and dismissals, the size of the company and how students at the ballet's affiliated school may be used in productions."

We don't want to speculate about the facts in this particular case, but -- does anyone know facts about how other unionized companies deal with such issues? I am particularly puzzled about the question of "hiring and firing," -- and the issue of job security generally -- which I assumed was always something controlled by the AD.

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A very sad story.

I am still confused about this word "strike."


"Dancers maintain they are not on strike but are victims of an unreasonably harsh lockout by management.

"The company insists the dancers effectively went on strike during "Nutcracker" when an interim agreement on a work contract fell through.

"There has been labor conflict at the ballet since late last year, when the 20 dancers began efforts to unionize.


All articles linked above refer to (a) the dancers' unionization and (b) the breakdown in contract negotiations. By what standards do either of these events constitute a strike? I need enlightenment.

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