In a press release from “The Artists of American Ballet Theatre”, they announce their overwhelming vote to authorize a strike shortly after midnight on Wednesday.
80 dancers and stage managers, represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), took the vote as negotiations stalled. They have been bargaining with ABT management since April 2017 for a new three-year agreement. Among other issues, the group is seeking to improve retirement contributions which were completely eliminated for one year, then cut in half — from 7.5% to 3.75% — during the recessionary period beginning in 2008.
They are now seeking modest increases in the contribution rate to regain those previous levels and requesting that minimum wage increases be effective from the date of contract expiration rather than from ratification, conceding on cost saving proposals in order to obtain these “modest” gains.
Leonard Egert, National Executive Director of AGMA, said,
These hard-working ABT dancers have dedicated their lives to becoming the top Artists in their field. Stage managers work long hours, often through lunch and dinner breaks, to get the performances on stage.
These Artists have further proven their loyalty to ABT by spending the majority of their relatively short careers with the Company. They all deserve to be able to retire from dance with dignity and respect and payments better reflecting what they have given to the Company throughout the years.
The strike threat comes as ABT plans to leave on tour at the end of this month to Washington, Detroit and Chicago, with an Asian tour planned for March. The press release states that “Unless a tentative agreement is reached, the Artists have authorized the Negotiating Committee to call a strike prior to the tour dates”.
AGMA's New York Dance Executive, Griff Braun, stated,
ABT falls far short when compared with other AGMA dance companies of all sizes in terms of retirement contributions. The total cost of our retirement and wage retroactivity proposals is less than $30,000 over a three-year period. This is a small price to pay to begin to address the legitimate concerns of those who create and maintain the artistic excellence of the Company.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.