More Washington Woes

Article excerpt

The management of the Washington Ballet has again locked horns with its dancers and their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, over collective bargaining issues. The impasse resulted in the cancellation of the company's entire Nutcracker run, the February and March programs at the Kennedy Center, and a week's booking in March at New York's Joyce Theater. The loss of Nutcracker revenue will amount to over $1 million, according to Jason Palmquist, the ballet's executive director.

Problems began when the dancers, who had made new contract proposals in August, met with management to bargain in late October. "Everything [that management said] sent a clear message that they wanted no involvement with the union," said AGMA counsel Deborah Allton. "It was very frustrating for the dancers, because nothing was changing." Concerned about unsafe working conditions, the dancers and the union proposed an interim agreement on Dec. 12 to address crucial issues until a full contract could be approved. Palmquist called the proposal "the nuclear option," declared that the dancers were striking, and canceled the remainder of the Nutcracker performances. "They were circumventing the collective bargaining process and saying, 'We need an agreement now,'" said Palmquist.

The dancers maintain that they were always available to talk and were locked out. "In our opinion, the interim agreement was an intervention, because it was clear the negotiations were going to take forever," said Allton. …