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BW

AGMA: Union information

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BW

As a parent, I know that I often wonder about the financial and practical side of a career in ballet, so when I came across this website, I thought you all might find it rather interesting.

 

Take a look at it - it covers opera, music and dance. I have given you the main site and then the page that deals with the ballet companies. Scroll around the whole site and take a look at the various sections, such as The Board, etc.:)

 

 

American Guild of Musical Artists

Affiliated with the AFL-CIO; Branch of Associated Actors and Artistes of America

1430 Broadway,14th Floor

New York, NY 10018 Telephone: (212) 265-3687 AGMA@MusicalArtists.org

 

http://www.MusicalArtists.org/HomePage.htm

 

Collective barganing agreements for various ballet companies: within these agreements you will find rates of pay for various levels within the companies listed. (section 3 for NYCB's aggreement):

http://www.agmanatl.com/ListOfDance.htm

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Victoria Leigh

Very interesting to do the comparisons. Thanks for posting this, BW. Now if there was only a way to find out about all the companies which are NOT union, such as Washington Ballet, Ballet Florida, Southern Ballet Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Dallas Ballet, etc., etc. Not absolutely certain about all of the above companies, but guessing that they are not AGMA companies. There are many more. I believe the compensation levels for non-AGMA companies are considerably different from those which are union. (In case someone is wondering why ABT is not listed on that site, they broke away from AGMA a few years ago and formed their own union.)

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Guest sarabesque

As a lot of you know, I'm on the verge of the professional dance ciruit this year.

Accordingly, I thought I should look into AGMA. I went onto their website, skimmed some sample contracts and their new member booklet... but I'm still confused.

When are you able to/ should you join?

Does one join before or after you are professional employed?

Can you work for an AGMA company if you are not an AGMA member?

does this apply to trainees? apprentices?

 

more questions to come...

 

I was reading Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley's contract online -

Some things that made me realize I should get more info:

-it mentioned that dancers that are not AGMA I don't think are allowed to get parts other than extras?

-trainees could be cast no higher than 2nd corps roles?

 

:thumbsup: I am such a novice... but, I"m trying to be educated about this whole complicated process called careers!

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Mel Johnson

You've found the AGMA site. I believe that your questions are answered there. You don't or even can't join AGMA without being a member of a company which recognizes union negotiation as the standard for itself. If you perform in a non-union company while a union member, you may have to use an assumed name. You may work for an AGMA company as a non-union member, but your casting assignments will be severely limited. Supers is about as good as it gets.

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Guest sarabesque

whoops-sorry. I don't know how I double posted- never done that before. I think my computer was going so slow that I thought it failed so I resent it.

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Mel Johnson

It's happened to all of us. Once I double-posted when I sneezed!

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Guest sarabesque

Ok- so their website doesn't really ahve basic information, its kinda structured for members. The contracts you can download are very long and rather legally worded as such things will be.

 

So if and when I get into an AGMA company will they like hand me a cnotract and then tell me to get a membership?

 

Is AGMA only for people on full salary? i.e. do trainees or apprentices with either stipend, or other minor benefits have to join too?

 

Is there that much of an advantage to being in an AGMA company?

It seems like maybe better pay and a less abused schedule. But I don't know if forcing trainees to only take the lowest possible roles is really fair ( I know there's senority, but ina legal contract?) And it seems like directors administrators

would have a slower more onorous process for getting anything done.

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Mel Johnson

If they're going "by the book", the company rep or the AD will sit down with you and negotiate your personal contract with the company. You should be informed at that time that you are entitled to have a union rep present to assist you in making your first contract. Be aware that the contracts that you saw at the AGMA site, which is not as helpful as it used to be, I agree with you, are the general contracts between the union and the company. Individual artists' contracts are more detailed. Unless stipulated by the general contract, students, trainees and apprentices are not entitled to union representation if they are not on a full-salary relationship with the company. They are not regarded as eligible, generally, in most labor law, for union membership, because they are still technically students in a special relationship with the company to prepare them for full membership. This is not like Civil Service. The best thing you can do for yourself is Read the Contract! I know that it's written in legal, but read it! And the issue of whether it's fair to allow a company to limit casting possibilities for new members is another whole argument, which could consume this entire board, if we let it.

 

Being in a union company is an indicator, not infallible, though, that you're playing in the Big Leagues now, and they play hardball!

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Treefrog

In theory, unions protect the rights of workers against frivolous actions by management. The idea is that you have both the expertise of the union behind you AND the power of collective bargaining -- which means that individuals can't negotiate on their own behalf for better treatment, and management can't take advantage of weak, unschooled, eager, naive, or starving individuals. (As a card-carrying union member, I'm surprised at the idea that individual artists have contracts that differ from the general contract; in my experience, the general contract stipulates conditions for everyone, although these may differ by level, e.g. greater experience earns a higher salary. Individual privileges or special treatment are a big no-no, as is sub-standard treatment.)

 

Thus ... unions may seem like a burden to someone -- especially a non-member -- trying to break in, but they really are designed to make life better for the worker/artist. In the end, their reprentation is a real benefit.

 

(Disclaimer: my experience has nothing to do with artists' unions, and is based on the role of unions generally. YMMV.)

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Mel Johnson

Individual artist contracts stipulate things like roles to be danced, permission to conduct rehearsals when necessary (for ballet master pay) and other refinements in the planning of a ballet company's entire work program. They're not like regular labor contracts and certainly nothing like government work. And of course, any provision of the individual contract which violates the general contract is null and void.

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Guest sarabesque

Thanks very much! IT sounds like I don't have to worry about all this just yet- but now that I know the basics, I at least know where to start forming questions when I am a full -fledged salaried dancer.

And of course, I will read the whole thing- probably a couple times!

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kiki

I am looking into auditioing for a job where there are 2 seperate auditions being held. One is for AGMA members and the other is just an open call. I was wondering if there was an advantage to either and what the reasons for having the seperate auditions for the same job would be? Please shed some light!!

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Victoria Leigh

Dancers who are already AGMA members often have separate auditions. It is not a choice. If you are AGMA, you go to that audition. If not, you go to the general audition. This works the same for Broadway and other things. Those who are union members have already worked professionally, therefore they might be looked at for higher level positions, but not necessarily. They just have earned the right to have an audition separate from the larger one of people looking for their first job, or, their first union job.

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kiki

Thank you, that is kind of what I thought. Do you think those union members have a better shot at the job or does it really matter? I have danced profesionally with a ballet company but it is not an AGMA company so therefore I would go to the open call audition. Would it be "cheaper" to hire me over a union member? Sorry I should probably know more about this situation but I don't!

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vagansmom

I wish they wouldn't hold separate auditions for AGMA members. It assumes that all other dancers do not have professional credentials when that's not necessarily true. Washington Ballet dancers up to very recently, for example, had no union, therefore they'd have to audition with the larger group? Doesn't seem fair. My daughter's working in a company that doesn't have a union. Quite a number of dancers are.

 

I like the way some companies hold their auditions, separating them into a "professional dancer" vs. open audition.

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