Washington Ballet's dancers will vote on whether they want to be represented by a national union, under a National Labor Relations Board decision issued yesterday.
The American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents singers and dancers, had filed a petition with the NLRB seeking to represent the dancers in contract talks and asking the agency to order an election.
In its decision, the NLRB rejected the company's argument that the dancers were seasonal workers who could not unionize, noting that "the bulk of the dancers stay with the company multiple years." The agency also found that two dancers/rehearsal assistants and two apprentices had the right to vote in the election. The company had argued that the rehearsal assistants were supervisors, and that the apprentices did not have a "community of interest" with other dancers.
AGMA president Linda Mays said in a statement, "The NLRB...decided what every ballet company already know is true: dancers and apprentice dancers have a federally protection right to select the union of their choice, free from employer interference."
Jason Palmquist, the executive director of the Washington Ballet, said, "The National Labor Relations Board process is one designed to ensure that employee rights are respected, and the setting of a democratic, secret ballot election is simply the next step in that process. The Washington Ballet, however, respectfully disagrees with the [NLRB's] understanding of our re-employment process. "
"The Washington Ballet unwaveringly supports our dancers' right to decide whether or not they want to be represented by a union, but we want that decision to be one based on all the facts," he added.