AGMA Update: CCO illegally subcontracted dancers, then withheld payment until dancers withheld labor

Published July 10, 2023   |  By Musical Artists  |  Post in All Areas

On June 28, AGMA shared a social media update on what’s been happening at Central City Opera this summer, including that we have a number of pending grievances and have filed 5 Unfair Labor Practices. We’d like to expand on some of that now.

CCO has illegally subcontracted dancers. Dancers are covered under our CBA – every dancer hired by CCO should be on an AGMA contract. These dancers are not.

In bargaining, CCO tried - and failed - to get the right to subcontract bargaining unit work included in their management rights proposal. We defeated that in bargaining and limited their right to subcontract, permitting sub-contracting to only non-AGMA positions; like if they wanted to subcontract their accounting department. Definitely not dancers.

CCO lied to us directly at the time, and went as far as to tell AGMA during bargaining that they had no plans to hire dancers. Then, shortly after the contract was ratified, AGMA learned that CCO illegally subcontracted dancers. And then didn’t pay them for weeks of work until the dancers refused to show up to the June 28 rehearsal. While we work to redress this injustice, AGMA has let the dancers know we are here for them and applaud the dancers for exercising their power and withholding labor.

Why would CCO prefer this over having dancers covered under the CBA? Because a non-union dancer is vulnerable and unprotected from their wrath. CCO is taking the position that these dancers are not subject to minimum compensation rates, housing, work rules, or scheduling because they have been subcontracted.

Which means:

  • The dancers are not being housed; they must pay out-of-pocket for gas and transportation to and from CCO. They often travel late at night regardless of any hazardous weather or road conditions.
    • It is our understanding the dancers asked CCO to consider providing emergency housing should the weather make it unsafe to travel, but the dancers never heard back.
  • The dancers are being paid substantially less than they would be earning under our CBA, earning a TOTAL of $2,000 for all their work since being subcontracted.
    • Moreso, they are being compensated far below the industry standard in general.
    • As we mentioned, they didn’t even receive payment until they withheld labor and did not attend the 6:00 p.m. rehearsal on June 28.
  • The dancers are dealing with last minute and repeated scheduling changes, resulting in them having to cancel other gigs, thus losing additional money.

In response to CCO’s refusal to return to the bargaining table to resolve this, AGMA filed both a grievance and ULP to rectify this situation. A grievance because the dancers should be included under our CBA; a ULP because CCO has refused to bargain with us and because they lied to our faces. They were not bargaining in good faith, even though they claimed they were in their press releases multiple times.

This will be made right. But we must acknowledge that the summer is short, and a lot of damage is happening in the meantime. Unfortunately, both these processes take time, and the dancers are suffering.

Given that this is unlikely to resolve immediately, these artists need support.