Joffrey Lock Out?

Say it ain’t so.  The Sun-Times‘ Hedy Weiss reported earlier this week that the Joffrey Ballet dancers had received a letter telling them to clean out their lockers and turn their keys in by this Thursday (tomorrow) and that the beginning of the 2011-2012 season may be cancelled.    Say what?

Here is a Trib update, one from WBEZ and another from  Zac Whittenburg at Time Out Chicago.   So here’s what I do/don’t know…

There isn’t a contract for the new season.  Joffrey says the union (AGMA) has been unresponsive, so it went ahead with a “lock out”.  AGMA says a lock out is illegal and unproductive since the dancers aren’t actively working now.  At question is a bump up in rehearsal hours from 25 to 30 hours a week, but with a minimal salary increase (2 – 3%).  Joffrey took aggressive action to get the union to respond and to freak out the dancers, so they would be willing to negotiate quickly.  Point(e) taken.  The union has responded and the dancers, currently on a “relaxing” hiatus are freaking out.

I think they will come to an agreement and will not cancel any part of the season.  Why would they?  The dancer want to dance and the company does not want to refund ticket holders and deal with the monumental press issues involved with canceling programming.  A few earlier performances could be canceled without much effort like the Blossom Festival and appearances at Dance/USA, Dance for Life and Chicago Dancing Festival, but with the rest of Chicago’s top companies being represented, it really isn’t in the company’s best interest to be the missing link.

Obviously we don’t know all of the details, but personally, I lean to the side of the dancers.  Give them what they want.  If you don’t have them, you don’t have a company.  Increase the rehearsal time, but compensate them appropriately and in line with other top-tier national ballet companies.  Some have likened this to the NFL and NBA lock outs, but those organizations are for-profit and are negotiating with athletes that make millions per season.  Once a principal dancer starts flaunting their pimped out cribs and 60-foot yachts, then we might need to consider a reduced salary increase.  The only thing similar about the Joffrey lock out and the NFL lock out is that I will be extremely bummed if I can’t watch ballet or football this fall.

Let’s get a deal done!

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