Negotiations Roundup

Volume CIII, No. 9September, 2003


Dance Theatre of Harlem and Local 802 reached agreement on the terms of a new contract in June, just prior to a one-week engagement at the Lincoln Center Festival. The agreement is backdated to the expiration of the prior contract, from Nov. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2003.

Local 802 was able to achieve full freelance opera and ballet scale with one exception. As in prior agreements with this employer, the union allowed up to eight performances and dress rehearsals per week rather than the standard seven. However, a ninth show would be paid at time and a half.

Weekly performance salary is $1,550 plus all applicable premiums. Pension pays 15 percent; health pays $26 per performance and $6 per rehearsal.

In addition, musicians who were unable to accept the July Lincoln Center Festival engagement will not be penalized for attendance and shall remain on the roster.

Most importantly, the union insisted on a bond for all wages and benefits covering the Lincoln Center engagement in light of past difficulties with this employer.

In October 2001, Dance Theatre left town without paying the musicians for their services for the 2001 City Center season. The union filed a grievance and reported the nonpayment to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But what ultimately brought the most pressure to bear upon Dance Theatre to pay the outstanding wages and benefits was the show of union solidarity from AFM locals in Texas. Musicians from those locals leafleted the company’s productions in San Antonio and Houston, where the company was on tour.

This time, the employer agreed to deposit a certified check for all wages and benefits for the 2003 Lincoln Center engagement in advance with Legit 802, the union’s payroll service, by July 8 (the engagement ran from July 8 to July 13). But once again, payment was not received.

Local 802 called an emergency meeting with the orchestra before the Friday evening performance and contacted Lincoln Center officials and the director of the festival to apprise them of Dance Theatre’s failure to post the bond and the potential consequence it could have on the weekend performances.

Dance Theatre finally paid up later that day and the weekend performances went forward as scheduled.

Akua Dixon, Lou Bruno, Gerhardt Koch, Eugene Moye, David Wechsler and Wilmer Wise comprised the union negotiating team, assisted by Assistant Director David Lennon.