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DANCE NEWS: Contract Dispute Between Union Artists and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Escalate

DANCE NEWS: Contract Dispute Between Union Artists and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Escalate

Published on June 30, 2022
"Love Stories" finale. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The Dancers and Stage Managers of Alvin Ailey Demand Fair and Equitable Contracts

NEW YORK CITY - 6/29/2022 - With the current collective bargaining agreement between the American Guild of Musical Artists and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater set to expire on July 1, 2022, the AGMA Ailey Negotiating Committee – made up of the Artists of Ailey – has been at the bargaining table for several weeks, fighting for a fair and equitable contract. The Artists have made multiple detailed presentations to management in support of their request for a fair contract; in response, management has told the Artists that their asks are too costly and unworthy of the Company’s resources.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is one of the most successful dance companies in the United States, boasting a healthy balance sheet and an annual budget of approximately $40 million. Despite the financial health of the organization, Alvin Ailey spends a comparatively minuscule fraction of its overall budget on the dancers and stage managers who make up the first company and carry out the primary work and mission of the organization. While Alvin Ailey Artists have significantly more performances each year than Artists at peer companies, their Artists are compensated well below the national standard in terms of guaranteed work weeks, salary, and overall career earnings. Meanwhile, the compensation for Alvin Ailey’s highest-paid executives stands at the very top of the market in the dance world.

The Artists have made several necessary, essential, common-sense asks of management, all of which have been refused. The Artists are asking for their guaranteed work weeks to be increased from 35 weeks to 43 weeks, so that they have time to safely rehearse repertoire and keep their bodies in condition during a long and grueling season. The Artists are also asking for salary increases to bring their earnings in line with other dancers and stage managers at leading companies. At the table, the Artists have repeatedly highlighted the structural inequality built into Alvin Ailey’s business model. Alvin Ailey’s artists are primarily BIPOC, and they are compensated well below other peer dance companies whose rosters happen to be made up of a majority of white dancers. Alvin Ailey’s primarily white senior management, however, is compensated at or above industry standard.

Screengrab of a post on @artistsofailey

In response, Executive Management has refused to make structural changes to the collective bargaining agreement between Alvin Ailey and AGMA that would address these glaring inequalities, rejecting proposals to meaningfully increase compensation or work weeks for the Artists. Management has refused to provide the Artists with Alvin Ailey’s current and strategic budget, so that the Artists may see where they fit in with Alvin Ailey’s budget and priorities (the Artists estimate that their compensation accounts for no more than 15% of Alvin Ailey’s overall operating budget).

As contract disputes continue to escalate, the Artists of Ailey have re-launched their Instagram account (@artistsofailey). Just yesterday, the Artists sent an open letter to the Alvin Ailey Board Members, informing them of the lack of progress being made at the table. “It has been extremely disheartening and disappointing to sit across the table from management and be continuously disrespected, all while working hard to pull off a successful Lincoln Center Season,” the Artists wrote to the Board.

The Artists, with the support of AGMA, have also reached out to their colleagues, friends, and supporters and have launched an Action Network letter-writing campaign. Supporters can access the pre-drafted letter via this link. Supporters can send it as is or personalize it any way they’d like. However, supporters MUST enter their own personalized subject line, to avoid it being sent to spam. The letter will automatically send to Bennett Rink, Executive Director of Alvin Ailey.

Negotiations are scheduled for June 29 and June 30, with the hopes of achieving a contract before expiration.

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