Union Files NLRB Complaint Over Canceled Washington Ballet Tour

Classic Arts News   Union Files NLRB Complaint Over Canceled Washington Ballet Tour
[From our archives in 2005.]

The American Guild of Musical Artists has filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint against the Washington Ballet, accusing the company of "bad faith bargaining" in the negotiations that led to the cancellation of a tour of Italy.

The company canceled the tour, scheduled for July, after management and union could not agree on the meal allowances to be paid to dancers. The company originally offered $40 per day; the union, which has represented dancers since February, asked for the State Department standard of $150.

In its complaint, AGMA asked the National Labor Relations Board to force the company to pay dancers the salary they would have received during the tour.

AGMA president Alan Gordon said by email yesterday that he believed that the company had sabotaged the negotiations in order to avoid paying for the tour.

"The ballet's walking out of negotiations and then canceling the tour was part of a corporate strategy to engage in illegal bad faith or 'surface' bargaining (that is, giving the appearance of bargaining while never really intending to try to reach an agreement)," he wrote.

Washington Ballet president Jason Palmquist told the Washington Post earlier this week that he had offered the union a $55 allowance, although Gordon said that the ballet never raised its offer above $40. Gordon also said that he believed that the company's offer to raise the per diem and reduce salaries by an equivalent amount, in order to reduce taxes, was illegal.

Relations between AGMA and Washington Ballet's management have been tense since last year, when the union accused management of trying to prevent its dancers from unionizing. Dancers voted to be represented by AGMA in an election ordered by the NLRB in February.

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