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Flash Document, 5-10: Dancers Take Charge
Washington Ballet Artists try to Salvage Italy Tour

Editor's Note: As previously reported by the Dance Insider, the Washington Ballet recently cancelled a planned tour to Italy after company dancers refused to effectively subsidize the tour by having most of their per diem taken out of their salary. (The Ballet had initially offered a per diem of $40, or about 30 Euros at current exchange rates. The State Department's recommended per diem in Italy goes as high as $168, depending on the city.) The following letter, a copy of which was obtained by the DI, was written by Alan Gordon, executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the dancers' union. The DI welcomes a response from Washington Ballet management.

May 5, 2005

Jason Palmquist
Executive Director
The Washington Ballet

Re: A Way In Which To Resurrect the Tour To Italy

Dear Jason:

As you know, AGMA has filed (National Labor Relations Board) charges against the Washington Ballet alleging illegal discrimination and retaliation against Brian Corman and Nikkia Parish, and other charges arising out of our negotiations over the terms and conditions of your tour to Italy. The latter charges allege that the Ballet violated the National Labor Relations Act by engaging in a pattern of bad faith bargaining concerning the planned tour to Italy, including fictitiously declaring impasse based upon the Union's rejection of an illegal proposal, reneging upon previously accepted terms, engaging in tactics designed to frustrate agreement, and doing surface bargaining with no real intention of reaching an agreement. The Ballet further violated the Act, we charged, by canceling the tour in retaliation for the dancers' decision to elect AGMA as their collective bargaining representative and their refusal to accept the Ballet's subsequent attempts to unilaterally determine the terms and working conditions of the tour.

Recent press reports imply that the Italian presenters share our belief that the Washington Ballet has acted in bad faith. However, those same press reports also suggest a way through which we might jointly be able to resurrect the tour.

Despite your repeated public comments to the contrary, you know that I told you, on several different occasions, both verbally and in writing, that we were not locked into our original request for the State Department per diem amounts and that, instead, the dancers' believed that a per diem allowance in the range of $80-$100 a day would be sufficient to purchase meals and incidentals.

Since the Italian presenters now seem willing to provide the dancers with all of their meals, at no cost to them or to the Ballet, and assuming that the Ballet can secure a concrete agreement to that effect, the dancers would in turn need less of a per diem allowance, probably something in the $75 per day range, to pay for their other expenses. It is obvious to us, and should be likewise obvious to you, that with very little effort the Ballet can find a way, within or outside of the extant budget, to find the extra $20 a day for the dancers, that being the difference between your proposal of $55 and what the dancers would need to sustain themselves.

We have also made a due diligence inquiry into the availability of air fares and, notwithstanding your previous claims about 'exigent circumstances' arising out the 'fact' that the Ballet had to make a deposit weeks ago or lose its 'favorable' air fare, we have discovered that even lower air fares are now available.

If, in fact, you have been telling the truth about why you cancelled the tour, then the willingness of the Italian presenters to provide meals would per se enable the dancers to sustain themselves on a lower per diem which, in turn, would allow the Ballet to resurrect the tour.

Consequently, we request that you immediately contact the presenters and, once they to commit to provide the meals, that AGMA, the dancers and the Ballet quickly meet and negotiate a viable tour agreement.

Please let us know promptly if the Ballet is willing to make such an attempt.

Cordially,

Alan S. Gordon

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