NLRB to Hold Hearing Over Dismissal of Washington Ballet Dancers

Classic Arts News   NLRB to Hold Hearing Over Dismissal of Washington Ballet Dancers
[From our archives in 2005.]

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint in the case of two Washington Ballet dancers who claim that they were dismissed because of their support for unionization at the company

The decision means that in the NLRB's view there is "reasonable cause" to believe that the company violated the National Labor Relations Act when it did not offer new contracts to Nikkia Parish and Brian Corman earlier this year, as the American Guild of Musical Artists charged in March. An administrative-law judge will consider the case in a hearing later this year.

Parish and Corman were the only members of Washington Ballet who had been members of AGMA before dancers voted to join the union in February, and they testified at an NLRB hearing about unionization.

In a letter sent to dancers on May 20 and provided to PlaybillArts, executive director Jason Palmquist insisted that Washington Ballet had not violated labor laws. Both dancers, Palmquist said, had not been offered new contracts for "purely artistic reasons" that had been made clear to them by artistic director Septime Webre.

Corman had since addressed Webre's concerns and was offered a contract on May 2, he said.

Palmquist added that the company has not divulged the specifics of Webre's artistic concerns "in an effort to respect the privacy of Nikki and Brian." When the complaint goes to trial, he said, "the ballet will have no choice but to state on the record, fully and completely and with supporting evidence, the artistic reasons for its decisions.... I know that such a personal and public critique will be a painful experience for Nikkia and Brian."

AGMA executive director Alan Gordon said, "After we filed the NLRB charges about Brian and Nikkia, the ballet said our charges were completely baseless.... Obviously, the government disagrees. When we have an opportunity at trial to question [board chairman] Kay Kendall, Septime Webre, and Jason Palmquist under oath, we'll be able to expose the ballet's conduct for what it intentional and orchestrated campaign to violate labor law, bargain in bad faith, and disrespect the wishes and the needs of the dancers."

Recommended Reading: