The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents dancers and singers, has accused Washington Ballet of attempting to prevent its dancers from unionizing.
According to AGMA, the company's dancers asked the union last month to represent them in contract talks, in part because dancers believe that the company has disregarded their health and safety in its scheduling of rehearsals.
The union claims that Washington Ballet officials refused to recognize it as representing the dancers and that its lawyers have tried to prevent a vote on whether to unionize. On December 20, AGMA filed a Representation Petition with the National Labor Relations Board, requesting such a vote.
"This is a labor-relations philosophy more appropriate to a southern textile company in 1965 than for not-for-profit cultural institutions in the new millennium," said AGMA president Linda Mays in a statement. "These dancers want what every other unionized dancer wants: The professional and financial recognition to which the beauty of their art entitles them."
A spokesperson for the Washington Ballet said that the company supported the right of its dancers to choose their representation in a vote "based on all the facts," suggesting that it was the union that was attempting to prevent a fair vote.
"Our nation's labor laws make it clear that the best way for employees to make this decision is though a democratic, secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board," the spokesperson said. "An election supervised by the Labor Board insures that no one, including the union, unlawfully interferes with employee rights."
In a statement, artistic director Septime Webre added, "I'm particularly proud of the close and collaborative relationship I've enjoyed with the dancers of the Washington Ballet. It's unfortunate that the union has chosen to defame that relationship as a tactic to prevent a fair election."