Dance Theatre of Harlem Pays Up

Volume CII, No. 1January, 2002

Dance Theatre of Harlem has paid its 60 musicians more than $100,000 in wages and benefits for a week of performances that had been past due since early October.

The payment came after Local 802 filed a grievance, reported the non-payment to the U.S. Department of Labor and, most importantly, put the word out to the public. AFM locals 65-699 (in Houston) and 23 (in San Antonio) helped by passing out leaflets at the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s appearances, when the company toured the two Texas cities (see December Allegro).

“This is what unions are about. It’s one group of musicians in Texas supporting a group in New York. We are one union, and in unity is strength,” said Wilmer Wise, a trumpet player in the group.

“I thought it was wonderful support,” said French horn player Frank Donaruma “It shows how we can stick together and help each other in a crisis.”

Local 802 had threatened to stage a rally outside the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s December performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., but the action was unnecessary after the company finally paid up.

After the payment went out in mid-November, a number of musicians reported that their checks had bounced. The company’s contractor told the union that the problem was not orchestra wide, but only affected seven musicians. The contractor promised to call the affected musicians to instruct them to return the bounced checks and the company would reissue them. At press time, it appeared that all musicians had received valid checks.

Local 802 and Dance Theatre of Harlem reached a short-term contract in November, which only covers the company’s current season. Talks for a multi-year agreement were to resume at the end of the season.