Joffrey Ballet dancers to challenge lockout during national dance industry conference
Updated on Jul 15, 2011 at 4:06pm:
The American Guild of Musical Artists.
This Saturday, union-represented dancers and stage managers,in a contract dispute, plan to leaflet outside of . The demonstration, from 11:15am–3:30pm, will occur during an open house at the Joffrey’s academy, coinciding with .
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dance/USA., spoke last night at for the conference, for members of
Is Rahm happy that the Joffrey is embroiled in a union dispute just after he took on the board role, especially when he’s in the middle of politically sensitive negotiations with city employee unions? The Mayor’s press office has not yet replied to requests made for comment; reached by phone, a Joffrey spokesperson stated simply that the company does not wish to make any statements at this time.
A press release from the dancers’ and stage managers’ union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, reiterates allegations that Joffrey executive director Christopher Clinton Conway, as quoted by the Tribune, has exaggerated the highest dancer salaries by more than $20,000. Under contract about 38 weeks per year, it’s at the far end of possible that the Joffrey’s most accomplished dancers earn this on top of AGMA’s claims of their pay—which it says are based on records to which it has legally guaranteed access—through teaching, guesting and/or other outside engagements.
AGMA’s statement also references “distressing” misrepresentations in articles such as this interview with University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson, who told the Tribune’s Kristin Samuelson, “These folks tend to be prima donnas…egomaniacs. And their unions support those [traits]. Some would even make LeBron James blush.”
The Joffrey Ballet dancers “are certainly not the difficult, high-maintenance performers implied by management,” AGMA counters. “They are also aware that without them there is no Joffrey Ballet,” a salient point considering that the company’s 2011–12 engagements begin in just over a month. At most, two weeks remain before the company is forced to begin canceling commitments.
Only two issues are unresolved, according to AGMA’s statement (which makes no mention of previously reported disagreements over assistant stage management personnel minimums, and student-performer maximums). Compensation for proposed increases in dancer work hours, beyond 3 percent annual raises for the five-year duration of the contracts, remains contentious, as is “the elimination of family health coverage.” From the union’s statement:
In previous agreements, full family health coverage was provided for any dancer who had a family. In a recent agreement, that coverage was cut to pay the premiums for only three dancers. If more than three dancers needed and were eligible for family coverage, the dancers decided that the total cost of the premiums to cover three families would be added together and divided amongst all who needed it and qualified. However, if there were less than three qualifying, Joffrey was only responsible for the number that qualified.
Barbara Hillman, the lawyer representing the dancers in the dispute, called me this afternoon to discuss her and the artists’ next move. “The dancers are really interested in performing,” she said. “They believe, they hope, that the city of Chicago and its citizens feel that they’re an important part of the cultural scene here.”
The dancers’ prior AGMA-negotiated, three-year contracts expired on June 30. However, in the past, negotiations have extended months beyond deadline.
The Joffrey Ballet’s website no longer lists performers’ names or bios. Photos of the artists are also stripped out, replaced in most cases by this promotion, for subscriptions to a season in jeopardy with no dancers to dance it.