ANNIVERSARY ACTION: As the New York City Ballet turns 75, we demand a fair contract for the orchestra! Rally with us on Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 6pm to 8pm outside Lincoln Center with live music provided by a union band… and plenty of solidarity! RSVP at www.local802afm.org/oct11
Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 6pm outside Lincoln Center
NEW YORK – The musicians of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, represented by the NYC musicians’ union (AFM Local 802), announce their next big rally with live music, union allies and elected officials at the New York City Ballet’s 75th anniversary on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at from 6pm to 8pm outside Lincoln Center.
Musicians are in a bitter fight for a fair contract with ballet management.The orchestra is currently working under an expired contract for 9 percent below their 2019 compensation. A major sticking point in the ongoing negotiations is management’s failure to agree to a fair wage adjustment that would compensate the musicians for going without pay for 15 months during the pandemic, then submitting to a harsh 15 percent pay cut – even though the ballet’s endowment was worth $263 million at the time. (The ballet also received more than $10 million in taxpayer-funded pandemic support.)
Management also is insisting on significant healthcare concessions despite the fact that the ballet is experiencing record-breaking fundraising and ticket sales.
In response, musicians are engaging in massive public rallies, including one on Oct. 5 that coincided with the ballet’s annual fall fashion gala. The sidewalk across from Lincoln Center was flooded with hundreds of musicians, union allies and supporters, and was attended by many of NYC’s biggest labor unions, including members of AGMA, SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild of America, Actors Equity, IATSE, and others. (WATCH A VIDEO RECAP)
That same night, in an act of collective solidarity, musicians stood together in silence from the orchestra pit before tuning. (WATCH A VIDEO RECAP)
Musicians have set up a petition to demand a fair contract; to date, almost 3,600 supporters have signed. In early September, the orchestra overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike, which would allow the musicians to strike if contract talks break down. The musicians are providing updates at their public website www.paytheorchestra.com.
LOCAL 802 PRESIDENT SARA CUTLER said: “We will be out here until the management of the NYC Ballet gives us a fair contract. Musicians are suffering. Our message to management is loud and clear: you can’t continue with business as usual while you mistreat your musicians by not offering a fair contract. We invite all supporters to attend our next rally on Oct. 11 from 6pm to 8pm outside Lincoln Center.”
REBECCA DAMON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK LOCAL OF SAG-AFTRA, said at the musicians’ Oct. 5 rally: “We will be with you as long as it takes. One day longer, one day stronger!”
WGA EAST PRESIDENT LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN said at the musicians’ Oct. 5 rally:“We can’t live our lives without music. Musicians deserve fair pay! We know you’ll get it, and until you do, we’re standing here alongside you.”
AGMA PRESIDENT NED HANLON, who represents the dancers of the NYC Ballet, said at the musicians’ Sept. 19 rally: “AGMA will unwaveringly support Local 802 – and that commitment is even more significant here at this house where both unions have a substantial presence in this company. This incredible 802 orchestra — along with AGMA dancers and stage managers — are the glue that holds the New York City Ballet together.”
AFM PRESIDENT TINO GAGLIARDI, who is leading the negotiations on behalf of the international musicians’ union, said in a previously published statement: “Musicians of the New York City Ballet deserve a contract that allows them to work with dignity and enjoy affordable health care for themselves and their families. They are not being offered the wages and benefits they deserve and are instead being asked to make financial concessions once again.”
MUSICIAN JULIA DeROSA, principal oboist with the New York City Ballet orchestra, said at the Sept. 19 rally: “Ballet is nothing without live music. George Balanchine said that dancing is music made visible — and that doesn’t happen without this orchestra.”
MUSICIAN ETHAN SILVERMAN, who plays bassoon in the New York City Ballet Orchestra and who chairs the musicians’ negotiating committee, said in a previously published statement: “The reputation of the New York City Ballet exists thanks to the hard work of all of the creative artists, both on stage and off, including the dancers, the musicians and the stagehands. When our audiences come to the ballet, they expect that the creative workers who make the magic happen will be treated fairly. But since ballet management is not offering us a fair contract, despite months of bargaining, we have to take our message to the public.”
MUSICIAN STEPHANIE MORTIMORE, committee chair of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, said at the Sept. 19 rally: “The MET Orchestra stands strong with the musicians of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. We call on ballet management and their board of directors to invest in your musicians and preserve your treasure of an orchestra.”
MUSICIAN COLIN WILLIAMS, committee chair of the New York Philharmonic musicians, said at the Sept. 19 rally: “These great musicians will show that we’re strong, we’re not going to give in, we will not accede, and we will stand firm in our support for this institution, these musicians, and for all of the great art that we make here.”