Monday, December 19, 2005

Strife At The Washington Ballet

From "All Toes Point To The Picket Line," a December 16, 2005 article in the Washington Post:

"For the second night in a row, the Washington Ballet has canceled its Nutcracker performance because of labor strife. It announced last evening that it would scrap tonight's show -- just as its dancers, dressed in coats and boots instead of costumes, were throwing up a picket line on the slick sidewalk outside the show's venue, the Warner Theatre.

"The impasse has dashed the hopes of hundreds of ticket holders counting on seeing the holiday ballet that the company has performed for more than 40 years. It also occurs at the worst possible time for the company, which derives much of its annual revenue from the three-week Nutcracker run.

"Yesterday's performance was canceled after management and the dancers' union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, failed again to agree on an employment contract. Management had also canceled rehearsals this week.

"'We belong onstage,' said one dancer, sighing yesterday afternoon and contemplating marching outside the same theater where the ballet began performances Dec. 2. 'It's ridiculous.'...

"On the mezzanine level of the Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday afternoon, the dancers prepared to go on the picket line....

"'YES!' they shouted, then began stringing around their necks the posters that read: "Washington Ballet Dancers are LOCKED OUT. No contract -- no Nutcracker. DANCERS NEED YOUR HELP. BOYCOTT THE WASHINGTON BALLET.' Silently, they filed out of the room, sneaking looks at themselves in the mirror.

"The dozen and a half dancers walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, turned left on 13th Street and formed a circle in front of the Warner Theatre, where they began to walk and chant: "No contract, no Nutcracker.' 'What do we want?' 'A contract.' 'When?' 'Now.'

"By 5:30 p.m., they numbered more than 50. The dancers had been joined by members of the stagehands union, the wardrobe union and others. The Metropolitan Washington Central Labor Council inflated a 15-foot rat with red eyes and mouth. Around its claws hung two placards. The last two times the council used the rat were against an asbestos-removal company and a demolition contractor accused of unfair labor practices.

"With their toes pointed out, the dancers marched in the rain...."

According to this story from NBC-4 on December 17, 2005, all remaining performances of Nutcracker have now been canceled because a successful contract could not be negotiated. A forty-year-old Christmas tradition here in Washington, D.C., will not be one of the usual highlights of the season this year.

70 Comments:

At 12/19/2005 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a real shame. I wish I better understood the economics of art and cultural endeavors like this one.

-FJ

 
At 12/19/2005 9:33 AM, Blogger eyesallaround said...

:>(

I was sitting here thinking about what you said on a previous CUANAS post about the people of a certain group cheating their way through med school. Yikes!!! I hope my doctor isn't one of them...

 
At 12/19/2005 11:14 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

FJ,
I didn't have tickets to the canceled performances, nor have I ever been to the Washington Ballet's production of The Nutcracker; but every year I toy with getting tickets.

I wonder if the dance company can recover from this. We're used to certain high-profile celebrities who cancel their performances at the last minute, but usually we can rely on those who perform classics to follow through with their schedules.

Tickets to the ballet are not cheap, and now people in the D.C. area will be more cautious about purchasing those tickets, IMO.

 
At 12/19/2005 11:15 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Eyes,
I often wonder about the same thing. A medical degree does not guarantee competence.

 
At 12/19/2005 11:54 AM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

The Boston Ballet has effectively cancelled The Nutcracker after running for as many years as I can remember.

The venue decided not to grant the ballet a lease for the event and booked the rockettes instead figuring it could make a better percentage since a good percentage of the Nutcracker proceeds went to the ballet.

Considering the price of tickets you do have to wonder where it goes. Members of the musicians union are being frozen out in favor of non union musicians. Prices stay high and wages of artists go down. That's the free market. Dumbing down America for the last 25 years.

 
At 12/19/2005 12:12 PM, Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

When local 802 of the musician’s union went on strike a few years back they used recorded music for New York City’s production of the Nutcracker. The orchestra was clearly missed by this writer and his wife. While we’ve seen the production many times before I felt sorry for tourists who don’t usually have the opportunity to see a professional production. By the way, we’ve seen the Philadelphia’s production, in their Academy of Music, a few years back and enjoyed it.

If I remember correctly, local 802 didn’t want more money from the ballet company but less rehearsal time so that they could go on some more profitable gigs during the day in recording studios. Ah, the musicians weren’t complaining about too little capitalism. They wanted to do more for-profit work instead of the non-for-profit ballet performances. A few years ago they wanted all broadway theatre to have a full orchestra even if the play had no music. Hmmm. Reasonable demands? Not always.

 
At 12/19/2005 12:20 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Sounds like the dancers are using similar tactics employed by the WTA here in New York. Using Christmas as a weapon in a labor dispute. Even though against the law, the WTA has been threatening a mass walkout and paralyzing the city during the Christmas season. I think that midnight tonight is the deadline.. I'll have to get back on that.

 
At 12/19/2005 12:43 PM, Blogger Camerinus said...

There isn't anyone I admired more for handling unions than Ronald Reagan. Obviously this is a completely different situation but this strike is hurting a lot of people who count on the ballet for their employment. Just like all the concessionaires, groundskeepers and others hurt during baseballs last strike only this time it's right at Christmas. Seems like they could have picked another time for their strike.

 
At 12/19/2005 12:59 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A little unexcerpted snippet from the article I used at the beginning:
The issues are not primarily about money, but about how much control Artistic Director Septime Webre should have over matters ranging from hiring and firing to how rehearsals are conducted to the size of the company and how students from the Washington School of Ballet can be used in productions.
This problem with the Washington Ballet isn't ostensibly all about the money. Of course, "time is money" if some of the ballet artists are giving private lessons and the new rehearsal and performance schedules interfere with a teaching schedule.

Also, since a very large portion of this ballet company's annual revenue comes from proceeds from The Nutcracker, this strike amounts to shooting oneself in the foot. Sorry for the pun--couldn't help myself.

No offense here...But I advise all to read that article from the Washington Post, as it gives insights which I didn't include in my blog posting. I'm more focused on the disppointment caused by the cancellations.

 
At 12/19/2005 1:05 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
If I remember correctly, local 802 didn’t want more money from the ballet company but less rehearsal time so that they could go on some more profitable gigs during the day in recording studios....They wanted to do more for-profit work instead of the non-for-profit ballet performances.
Interesting angle there. One might not have immediately thought of it on one's own.

When local 802 of the musician’s union went on strike a few years back they used recorded music for New York City’s production of the Nutcracker.
Unfortunately, here the dancers themselves are on strike. If the musicians only were on strike, the performances might have continued with recorded music. Of course, ballet dancers prefer live music as live music helps them to perform more effectively.

 
At 12/19/2005 1:08 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Crusader,
Sounds like the dancers are using similar tactics employed by the WTA here in New York. Using Christmas as a weapon in a labor dispute.
I think so. And I also think that these strikers at TWB didn't imagine such a think as cancellation of all subsequent performances.

The newspaper article also mentioned that many of the dancers were not in favor of the strike.

The WTB dancers may have a lean Christmas this year.

 
At 12/19/2005 1:09 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Camerinus,
I agree. Suffering and disappointment all around on this one.

And the next season will suffer as well.

 
At 12/19/2005 1:35 PM, Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks interesting info. Most ballet dancers don’t think of dancing as a job but a chance to live a dream (like in the film, The Red Shoes … OK, I’m dating myself!) They know there are hundreds hoping to live that dream. The blurb about objecting to the hiring and firing policy, hints that they are trying to close the door on the next person in line. There’s no tenure in ballet—even in the corps.

The pun should be obvious to the dancers. They are doing irreparable damage to their future opportunities.

 
At 12/19/2005 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the WP article...

As with dance companies in many other cities, the Washington Ballet counts on "Nutcracker" revenue to help pay for its other productions. Kendall said ticket sales from the production were expected to bring in 64 percent of the organization's annual earned revenue. The ballet's operating budget for the 2005-06 season is $7.3 million.

We've offered to refund money to people who have bought tickets, so that's probably around a million dollars that we've projected that we won't get.

The dancers were to begin rehearsals Jan. 3 for their next production, "The Bach/Beatles Project," slated to open a five-day run at the Kennedy Center on Feb. 1. That schedule is now in doubt, Palmquist said.


---

Evidently only about ~$1.4M of the companies $7.3M operating budget comes from ticket sales (earned revenue)...

-FJ

 
At 12/19/2005 2:03 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Hard to say what the conflict is about other than the dance compny not having a contract. Details are scarce as far as I can tell.

Farmer, since I know you are a fan of The Red Shoes, I'm surprised that you mention "earned revenue". That seems to put you in the camp that sees the arts as just a diversion: completely optional to a civilized society. That's a position I expect from the Randoids but it surprises me from you.

 
At 12/19/2005 2:13 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Jeez, you civilized people kill me. Now if you had been talking about my favorite nude stripping club, getting closed

Well...I might get excited.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

 
At 12/19/2005 2:30 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Of course they picked Xmas time to do it. When else would they have as much leverage? But it's sad nonetheless.

 
At 12/19/2005 3:12 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

ahhhh Unions. I have a local Boeing plant here that currently has it's machinests on strke because Boeing (gasp!) was going to make them actually pay for health coverage. Previously they didnt have to, and now that they were going to shell out $40/pay period... STRIKE!

Unfortuneatly, birds tell me that Boeing is quickly learning how many of those machienists they dont actually need.

I feel most for the guys going on strike. They face public ridicule by all their peers if they cross the line and go back to work, or they face a very scant Christmas to "hold out" as the union bosses tell them to.

 
At 12/19/2005 4:23 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

Ouch!
A hard nut to crack.
Is this a private company or something run by the City?
Our ballet and opera work almost like public service although there are some private companies.
It's hard to take sides when the data is virtually non existant.
Perhaps the company is close to go belly up and simply cannot afford any contracts.
People can be really "bloody minded" - sometimes.

 
At 12/19/2005 4:23 PM, Blogger Camerinus said...

Really G?
I feel more sorry for the rest of the people who work there and will have to make do without a paycheck during the Christmas season.
Does anybody know the reason that the dancers went out on strike?
Money, benefits..combination of both?

 
At 12/19/2005 4:34 PM, Blogger samwich said...

NOTICE TO MANAGEMENT:

THE DANCERS ARE PROFIT.

YOU ARE OVERHEAD. WHO PAYS TO WATCH YOU?

BECAUSE YOU HAVE DECIDEED THAT THE DANCER'S DAILY NEEDS ARE OF NO CONCERN TO YOU, NO TICKETS WILL BE SOLD, NO MONEY COLLECTED, AND NO MONEY AVAILABLE FOR YOUR PAYCHECK EITHER.

ENJOY THE COMPANIONSHIP OF JACOB MARLEY AND EBENEZER SCROOGE.

S

 
At 12/19/2005 4:57 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

The Dancers Are Profit...
Undoubtedly true, but how much profit? I've been trying to find out more information on the particulars of the strike and have pretty much come up empty-handed.
I remember Eastern Airlines employees going on strike even though the company would fold if they accepted the union demands. An agreement was never reached, the company shut down and all of Eastern Airlines employees were out of work along with employees who subcontracted with Eastern.
How are you sure that the same might not be true here?
Maybe the dancers should be dancing with Charles Dickens, all I see is their greed.

 
At 12/19/2005 5:11 PM, Blogger samwich said...

G, I am retired from Boeing, Renton, Witchita and Everett. I was a Lead Journeyman Aircraft Mechanic. Boeing charges a bit more than $200 per hour for every monkey goofing off while clocked to an airplane or sub assembly. The industrious are treated like garbage and the indolent are kept handy to inflate the billable hours. Airplane On The Ground crews bill $800 per hour per worker.

When Boeing builds a new airplane, exisitng shops are tasked to provide labor for the new program. General Supervisors flush their toilets and sent the dreggs, they do not part with the employees who make them look good. The first airplane of any model's billable hours are inflated by the indolent. This is a calculated strategy to increase profit. Weekend overtime is plentiful and abundant because overhead operations (general office, paper shuffling, Mahogany Row etc are not present and not being paid).
Boeing pays time and a half and double time and triple time on holidays. While I was pulling $50 or $75 per hour plus bennies Boeing was profiting $100-$125 gross profit per hour because I was present. Weekday profit had to be shared with more employees as wages because they too were "there".

The aircraft's sale price is calcualted on inflated productrion costs. A 747 costs $200 million and pays for itself in four years.

Boeing is so guilty of overbilling and mail fraud it ain't funny.

American Crusader; I don't know the appropriate balance either. Being labor in one industry and management in another, I understand what each side wants.

THE ADVANTAGE!

$

 
At 12/19/2005 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No mr. ducky, not all the arts are simply a diversion. I'm a firm believer in the necessity of "High Culture"... art that is so beyond the norm and extravagant, that it inspires others to attempt to emulate its' quality... and gives the average man the desire to experience something superior in their otherwise average lives and to join a society of like-minded aspiring individuals.

But at the same time, I also believe a ballet company should be able to make it without NEA and government performance grants. The local hoi agathoi should see to it that the high arts not only survive, but thrive. I'm willing to and have paid $150+ a ticket to see a decent ballet performance or a decent play, and $200 to see a decent opera performance. And I'd pay even more to see decent Shakespearean or Greek Tragedy.

And in the case of high culture, I don't think any price would be too high. In fact, I think that the MORE expensive it was, the greater the allure would be and the MORE likely high society would be in attendance.

But I'm not an "arts for the masses" afficionado. I'd prefer going to the symphony and NOT having idiots showing up an hour late scrambling around looking for their seats like I'm at the local movie house. I'd prefer it if they DIDN'T have "supertitles" at opera and that it WASN'T "accessible". Perhaps THAT way, people would have an incentive to learn a foreign language or otherwise "improve" themselves. Just call me a "snob".

"Live" performances are definitely worth the extra $. Each is "unique".

-FJ

 
At 12/19/2005 5:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Felis,
As far as I know, TWB is a private company.

From http://www.washingtonballet.org/
history2003.htm

Founded in 1976 by the great American ballet pioneer Mary Day and under Septime Webre's artistic directorship since 1999, The Washington Ballet is an ensemble of powerfully athletic classical ballet dancers performing a repertory of new work and creativity. Considered one of the country's finest ballet companies, The Washington Ballet is recognized nationally and internationally for its high standards, artistic integrity, and unwavering commitment to presenting the very best in in ballet. The Company presents works by the greatest American choreographers and works by some of the most interesting ballet choreographers working today. The repertory spans the neo-classicism of George Balanchine and the expressionist works of Tudor, to the works of Twyla Tharp and Choo-San Goh, who served for 11 years as resident choreographer and later associate artistic director of the Company, as well as emerging American choreographers such as Trey McIntyre and Lila York.

Uniting the repertory is the
unique face of The Washington
Ballet, whose style emphasizes
attack, speed, physical
commitment and a high degree
of intelligence.

The Company presents a full
season each year at The Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts, the historic Warner Theatre and Center for the Arts at George Mason University, and performs bienniallyat the Joyce Theater in New York City. The Washington Ballet has toured nationally and internationally to critical
acclaim in such countries as Russia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, England, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the 17th International Dance Festival in Havana, Cuba.


I would guess, however, that TWB receives various grants, possible from the National Endowment for the Arts, and at least some kind of tax break from D.C. But I'm just guessing.

Some of their performance venues receive funds from various sources.

TWB's web site =

www.washingtonballet.org/

 
At 12/19/2005 6:05 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A few more details from the article I used:

...the ballet awarded dancers a substantial raise last year, and the "Nutcracker" revenue was meant to fund that.....

In a letter to AGMA [American Guild of Musical Artists] that the ballet provided last night to The Washington Post, Palmquist stated that in the proposed interim agreement he gave to the dancers this week he had included guarantees about continued employment for the company's dancers "that are unheard of in the ballet world."...

The two sides have been meeting since the beginning of November. The dancers told management on Monday that they would continue performing only if management accepted the dancers' version of an interim contract agreement.

Putting on "The Nutcracker" has inflamed the long-simmering issues of rehearsal hours, casting and rest days because dancing the ballet has been such a strain, this dancer said. A company member may have to perform the role of a parent in the first act, then change costumes and come on in the lengthy snow scene pas de deux, then change and perform another pas de deux in the second act.

"Sometimes we have to do that twice a day," the dancer said. "So we're exhausted, and when you're tired you lose your concentration and injury happens."

Palmquist, in his letter to the union, countered that "The Washington Ballet's workmen's compensation statistics are comparable to or lower than published data from other companies."


I don't know the ins and outs of ballet theatre, so the link in the blog article is the best source I have right now.

 
At 12/19/2005 6:07 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Papa Ray,
Now if you had been talking about my favorite nude stripping club, getting closed

Well...I might get excited.


LOL.

As a woman, I'm not too interested in any closing of those clubs. My husband, however... Hehehe.

 
At 12/19/2005 6:26 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
There’s no tenure in ballet...
Apparently, tenure was offered. The offer was for a limited time (Sounds like a sale!), and I think it's now been withdrawn.

 
At 12/19/2005 6:34 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

From another Washington Post article @

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2005/12/16/
AR2005121601734_pf.html :

...As with dance companies in many other cities, the Washington Ballet counts on "Nutcracker" revenue to help pay for its other productions. Kendall said ticket sales from the production were expected to bring in 64 percent of the organization's annual earned revenue....

Attempts to negotiate an employment contract with the union broke down early this week. One of the most troublesome issues is the degree of authority Artistic Director Septime Webre has over scheduling and conducting rehearsals. Dancers say rehearsals for Webre's version of "The Nutcracker" have been unreasonably grueling and have led to too many injuries, while company officials have said injury rates are comparable with those at other companies.

In general, money is not the source of the dispute as much as control over rehearsals, hiring and dismissals, the size of the company and how students at the ballet's affiliated school may be used in productions....

Kallas said the union is asking for some provisions that go beyond what it has put into contracts with other companies because of what it sees as a pattern of management retaliation against the dancers. AGMA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the ballet in the spring, asserting that it had discriminated against two dancers for their union activities. The ballet settled with the two dancers before the complaint was ruled on by a judge, but Kallas says the ballet continues to retaliate against dancers who have spoken up about labor issues....

For the dancers, the disappointment was acute. "I'm kind of speechless," said Elizabeth Gaither. "I just didn't think it would come to this. . . . I feel that what we're asking for is what other working people have, and why don't we deserve the same rights? We're always last on the list."

"It's not about money," agreed dancer Alvaro Palau. "It's the feeling of being appreciated. We don't want money for this contract. We want safety and job security and a safe environment, and that's all we ask for."

 
At 12/19/2005 8:41 PM, Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I find it odd that professionals would want to be in a union. Industrial work, where everyone does the same mechanical job with little creativity, may be suitable for a union. But professionals—the quintessential middle class individualistic career-oriented endeavor—unions are generally not a good sign. These are areas where creativity cannot be measured and individual merit differs considerably. From my experience, both interviewing at unionized institutions and actually having worked at one, I find the atmosphere stultifying and the morale … dismal. Was the union the cause or the response? That’s debatable. But it is clear that the union was no solution.

 
At 12/19/2005 10:08 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...

Unions do not give a single thought to the rest of us. I do not care for the Union and I am a member of one. The highlight of the season is canceled and there will be layoff great going guys.

 
At 12/20/2005 12:40 AM, Blogger samwich said...

HI AOW, in 1983, while I was laid off from the Mighty Boeing Airplane Cumpuny I sold jewelers supplies for a wholesale jewelry firm in Washington.

I just bought my wife a set of diamond stud earrings, 1.2 carat
tw for $492 including shipping and insurance from a wholesaler who sells wholsale to the public. They appraised at $2499.

While I was in the trade I could buy six 1/10th carat unmounted diamonds for $300 for the lot. Each single stone retailed for $300. Mark up is 300%-1000% depending on the size and quality of the stone. The larger the gem, the smaller the percentage of markup.

The website is www.ssjewels.com if you are interested and would like to take a look. I trust them.

$

 
At 12/20/2005 5:22 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

This whole thing has got me to start thinking about April. We will be voting on a new contract where I work. As always I'll vote no the first two times. I've told people I don't even listen to the first two readings I just fill out the ballot. I had an old friend (RIP George) that worked in management for 3 fortune 500 companies, he once told me that neither side will bring what they really want to the table before the third vote. The outcome has been decided before the first vote is cast. Business and unions are equally corrupt and the little guy in the middle will always get the shaft and hope the next contract will be better. In this case you can all hope next years performance will be the best ever.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

 
At 12/20/2005 8:07 AM, Blogger LASunsett said...

Union wages mean union prices. Something that a lot of people do not want to pay. Like anything else, if they are not careful they will price themselves right out of the market, like they have done in other industries.

 
At 12/20/2005 8:10 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
I hope that all who read here will pay attention to what you said about retail jewelry:
Each single stone retailed for $300. Mark up is 300%-1000% depending on the size and quality of the stone.
This practice of tripling is called key stoning and is a standard practice in the retail-jewelry trade.

I DON'T BUY JEWELRY AT RETAIL PRICES.

Sometimes coin shops sell jewelry, but usually the pieces are from estates and are not new. But I find some of the used and/or antique ones quite beautiful. If buying from a coin shop, you need to know the merchant first; there are rip-offs out there.

Samwich, the purchase you described in your comment was a good price. I checked the link, too--looks good. Thanks!

 
At 12/20/2005 12:34 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Another useful site when buying jewelry or coins:
http://www.lonestarauctioneers.com/

This site is dedicated to selling government seized property and valuables.

Some of the deals are amazing. I also have a friend who sells retail jewelry and the markup was close to what you had stated.
Of course you have to know a little bit about what you're doing but with a little research you can get some fantastic bargains.

 
At 12/20/2005 12:46 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

"Jason_Pappas said...

I find it odd that professionals would want to be in a union. Industrial work, where everyone does the same mechanical job with little creativity, may be suitable for a union"

Believe me, as a teacher you definitely want to be part of a union. Teachers are often forgotten when cities and counties are making out their new budgets and without union support our salaries would be even more pathetic.

 
At 12/20/2005 1:46 PM, Blogger Iran Watch said...

look what is happening in New York. The average salary for a MTA maintenance worker is 68,000 per year while the average salary for a teacher is $54,000 per year. Even the station agent averages the same as a teacher (only a GED/high school education required).

 
At 12/20/2005 2:07 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A word about unions here...

Back when I worked for the public-school system, I was invited to join--but not encouraged to join-- the local teachers' union. Back in that dinosaur age, I didn't join, nor did many other teachers because the primary benefit of joining the union was access to a good attorney should a law suit be instigated; PE teachers joined en masse because PE classes have more potential for teacher liability. We teachers of Language Arts didn't have much to worry about in that regard--especially in those days when accusations of sexual harassment by students was nearly zero, particularly for us women.

In this day, teacher unions have more power with regard to negotiation of teacher salaries, as Crusader mentioned above.

So, as I see it, many teachers today should probably join the union, both for liability protection and for negotiation of salaries. However, I have a HUGE problem with teachers calling a strike. Teaching should be a vocataion, not just a career. Therefore, in some respects, I also agree with what Jason said above.

 
At 12/20/2005 2:23 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A word about unions for blue-collar workers...

My father was an automotive mechanic and began his career as an employee of D.C. Transit, at the time a privately owned company. With reservations, he joined the union because of the many benefits associated therewith: health insurance, life insurance salary negotiation, workers' comp, retirement plan, etc.

The day came when the union called a strike, and my father was off for a full month. While we had a reduced income in the household, Dad got a lot done around the house. And, of course, I loved having him home with me all day long!

When the employees finally returned to work, they were "worse off" (Dad's words) than before they walked out on strike. And that month of wages was never made up. Nevertheless, the workers went happily back to work. Only a few understood they had been scammed.

I suspect that something similar will happen with The Washington Ballet. Just a hunch.

But I will say that when Dad died, getting the paperwork all straightened out was very easy, in large part because the union followed through with their promises, including immediate payment of life insurance and the "funeral fund"; one call was all it took. SSA was totally different--a time-consuming and a long-time-coming-benefits mess.

Today, all over the news, I'm hearing about the strike of transit employees in NYC. And just in time for Christmas!

For any of those interested, Charles Dickens's novel Hard Times, set in Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution, touches upon the need for a union and the what amounts to the scam which a union pulls off. The union representative doesn't give a hoot about "The Hands"; rather, he is all about the money which union dues generate and, in effect, contributes to the death of an factory employee who needed help but who refused to join the union.

I'm not sure of the history of the union movement, but I believe that it is a checkered one.

 
At 12/20/2005 2:29 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

AOW presents the union as flawed. My dad was a union industrial rigger and I certainly won't challenge that description.

However, being a human institution of course it's flawed I don't understand the impulse to abandon institutions due to their imperfections and throw ourselves at the ridiculous idea that "the market" is free and perfect.

 
At 12/20/2005 2:45 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Do any of you recall the film The Molly Maguires? I have a vague memory that this film dealt with the need for unions. I could be wrong. The title just popped into my mind, maybe because I love the music, which was composed by Henry Mancini. Mancini left the coal-mining, steel-mill town of Aliquippa, PA, in part because of the working conditions there. The same can be said of Dean Martin, who left Steubenville, Ohio.

Unions are definitely flawed, but I don't think I'm advocating abandoning them entirely. I have mixed feelings on the topic, maybe because I live close enough to West Virginia to know of the working conditions in coal mines, which used to me the only employment in town. I also know that the unions there haven't been totally beneficial.

Today, of course, workers often have the option of moving or of training for a better job--but not always.

I guess that I would say that unions present a type of two-edged sword.

I just heard on MSNBC that the strike in NYC is illegal. I'm not quite sure what "illegal" means in that context.

 
At 12/20/2005 2:48 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

PS: I hated that baseball strike some years back. It ruined my summer and my father's too. :(

 
At 12/20/2005 3:44 PM, Blogger Toni said...

Yeoww. I'm amazed with all the comments about a ballet theater. Not that I don't like to see the Nutcracker but it seems to me they are doing to themselves what all too many unions do today. Effectively strike themselves out of a job. If you strike to hurt the company (profit or non-profit) and are successful with the strike what have you accomplished? You're unemployed. Unions seem to run into quite often in the last few years. Could it be that Unions should be a thing of the past? I'd say yes!

 
At 12/20/2005 4:27 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

AOW
Thanks for the info.

 
At 12/20/2005 4:36 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

AOW, there are limits on public employee strikes that aren't present in private sector laws.

Will someone ask "nuke Iran" an obvious flyover country dork if he has any concept of the cost of living in NYC.

Like most anti-union folks he's really upset because he doesn't have a pot to pee in and would like everyone to join him at the bottom and get the wage dichotomy as large as possible as fast as possible.

I believe Honduras or Guatemala is his economic model.

 
At 12/20/2005 5:27 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

does the cost of living not apply to teachers?

I am anti union Duck because I see Unions collect dues, pay out piss-poor "strike pay", bank roll democratic political candidates, and fund lavish life styles of union boss elites. (Reverse Robin Hood?), then demand strikes where half the employees lose their entire income for months at a time. Oh, and if you dont strike (because you fell like keeping your house or something else equally crazy), they encourage the others to damage your property, and verbally assult you.... wow, great group there.

Oh yeah, and the efforts of the unions have been the NUMBER ONE FACTOR in "out-sourcing" in America. That dirty secret is hid under the fact that a 20 year Union veteran will get $20/hour with 3 weeks paid vacation, 10 holidays, no health care premium, a pension package rivaling most executives.... all for doing a menial job (benifit of seniority) that a $5/hour 16 year old could do.

Oh, and the fact that the entire thing removes any/all motivation for personal achievment. If you work harder than Bob, doesnt matter, you both get the same Union negotiated raise. But if he slacks off and does nothing... doesnt matter, because they cant fire him... Union will claim arbitration and cost so much in legal fees, the company will just keep the slug anyway.

 
At 12/20/2005 6:47 PM, Blogger samwich said...

21 YEARS AS A UNION MEMBER AT BOEING:
And in this morning's Seattle Times, Mark Blondin, the Assn of Aerospace Mechanic's and Machinists Union Lodge 751 prez was busted for DWI.
This clown replaced Tom Baker, busted by the feds for stealing union dues money. Baker's secretary pulled $96K plus premium bennies in the 1980's.
Both are arrogant morons whose main purpose in life as elected representatives was showing the rest of us they are now better than we rank and file are.

What the union got me: enough in wages to provide for my family in a generous abundance, educate my children and excellent health care. Protected from a vindictive boss who wanted to fire anybody he could so he could hire fammily and friends as repalcements. (nepotism)
What the Union demanded was loyalty to the union and union political candidates. Dissent was punished with ostricism and an active campaign to drive you out of Boeing's workplace into unemployment with lies, slander and viscious harrrasment. One man's home was burned, several cars damaged and a few assaults and battery attacks.

The main bone of contention was always money. Living in a specialized, capital intensive society, money is the main tool for accomplishing any indeavor.

The struggle between Capital and Labor is the struggle for advantage.

To be paid less than adequate for life's needs is theft by mangement. To grab more than the job is worth is theft by labor.

Abe Lincoln said it best for me:
"Those who injure Labor commit treason". The decimation of the blue collar manufacturing base is eliminating the source of value which is added to society by way of an increased standard of living.

Being unwilling to pay a fair price for the goods and services we recieve should preclude us from receiving them.

What is the balance?

That's negotiable.

S

 
At 12/20/2005 7:16 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

In spite of the limits on strikes for public employees, the NYC transit employees walked anyway. Is mass-firing on the table? Then what?

I heard on the news tonight that a judge has ordered a $1 million fine per day while the workers are out on strike. From the little I know about the strike in NYC, the sticking point seems to be retirement issues, not wages. If I understand correctly the origin of unions, their primary concerns were salaries and working conditions. But now strikes are called for matters other than what used to be the primary issues.

Not seeing performances of The Nutcracker is a shame, culturally speaking. But when transit employees walk off the job, the economy takes a hit, and the number of citizens impacted is quite high.

The strike's cost to the economy of NYC has been estimated at $400 million a day. Merchants shut down, many peoply unable to get to their jobs (Some of these people are restaurant workers and maintenance personnel), etc. Many people who work in NYC do not own a vehicle and rely on the buses and the subway. What are these people to do? How many essential personnel can't get to work? Will lives be jeopardized as a result of this strike?

Even worse...nurses' strikes. Lives can be jeopardized, are jeopardized. I haven't recently heard anything about nurses' striking, though.

I also recall the air-traffic controllers going on strike a few decades back. Weren't there some mass firings? How much of a hit did the airlines take on that one? The economy? I seem to recall that some people didn't want to fly with novices in the control towers.

Though G and Samwich take opposite sides in this discussion, I see the merits in both their comments. And Toni points out the idea of diminishing returns.

G's point about outsourcing is a disturbing one. Sounds right to me, but I don't know for sure.

As I see it, management can be out of line, and so can the union.

And a final thought...I wish I made the bucks some of those NYC transit employees make!

 
At 12/20/2005 8:00 PM, Blogger samwich said...

AOW, True but G and I can take opposite sides of the issue without insulting each other about their respective side.

Duck and I can take opposite sides of an issue without insulting each other about their respective side.

You and I differ on issues without insulting each other about our respective sides.

But I can be very very insulting.
It's a gift.

S

 
At 12/20/2005 8:10 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
But I can be very very insulting.
It's a gift.

Bwhahahaha! I've seen you do that a few times.

 
At 12/20/2005 8:48 PM, Blogger samwich said...

AOW,
The United States Marine Corps:

As an eleven year veteran of the United States Army I wish the rank and file Army soldier had the same SELF RESPECT a rank and file Marine has.

R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me, respect, just a little bit..........

A lack of respect for others is a visible manifestation of a lack of self respect.

S

 
At 12/20/2005 10:15 PM, Blogger newc said...

Contract nothing to this. Tickets in hand and a strike?
Everyone strikes?

"Wha is it that you DO here"?

If I wanted you to put me on a string for your performance alcio, I would at least make sure I had a LEGAL contract in hand.

Get lost.

I got actors, and train conductors everywhere. Who needs a union to make you succeed?

 
At 12/20/2005 10:22 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
A lack of respect for others is a visible manifestation of a lack of self respect.
I used to say something very similar to students all the time, when I was the discipline officer for the school.

"Created in God's image" says it all for me.

 
At 12/20/2005 10:40 PM, Blogger samwich said...

AOW did you see my answer to your question about certain revelations affecting politics, the $25 per month child support and Washington State. Second from the bottom.

S

 
At 12/20/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
Are you speaking of a comment to the previous blog article?

I had a hard time following that thread. I know zero about Washington State politics.

Let me know which thread (title of article here), and I'll go back tomorrow and look it over more carefully.

Off to bed now.

 
At 12/21/2005 9:09 AM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

Sam:
I understand the potential benefits of Unions, but the harvest you reaped, was what seeded the crop of today, which is a dying industry of production, over inflated compensation packages for drastically under trained general labor forces, and productivity level usually seen in communist societies. The union has sucked the motivation for innovation and initiative out of their respective work places, and become a haven for the under achiever. Most self-respecting, self-confident employees today would wish to be in an environment where their achievements are stand along accomplishments (and treated as such), rather than be grouped in with a mass that may or may not decide to meat goals. The Dunlop plant that used to be here ended up closing because the Union wouldn’t budge when the plant was asked to produce (pulling from memory here) 1-2% more a day (equaled out to like 20 tires). The Union’s argument: “it’s not in my contract”… even though management told them this had to be done to turn a profit for the plant.

That mentality will kill any production plant, especially in the current climate of global industry and production. Unions force companies to find cheaper sources of labor (over seas), because they refuse to budge on salary, compensation, and benefits packages that are outdated at best. They also remove the ability of the company to “trim the fat”, thus increasing the bloated and unproductive element of the labor force. The “vindictive boss” is more a mythos than a reality, as those sycophants are usually weeded out by the company because the are extremely inefficient managers.


Oh, and Ohh-Rah!

 
At 12/21/2005 9:34 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
I found that comment you referred to. It was buried in my inbox--Christmas mail, so to speak, had hidden the ocmment from me. I'll read it thoroughly and get back to you here on this thread.

 
At 12/21/2005 10:42 AM, Blogger samwich said...

AOW it's: The Saudi Prince, The Universities, Fox News and the Pentagon article. next to last comment out of 86 comments.

S

 
At 12/21/2005 11:09 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
Dirty Legal Tricks and Loopholes in the Law

So, elections are all about who has the money AND who can lead the sheeple?

Has there ever been "an honest election"?

I know I'm simplifying here.

BTW, I know of several cover-ups with regard to various law suits and criminal cases. Nothing political--just small stuff.

Many corporations would much rather settle out of court. In liability cases, insurance companies push to settle out of court; lawyers often advise the same. This from my own experiences, my family's experiences, my friends' experiences.

Personally, I have little faith in the justice system for "the common man."

Every time I hear a politician say, "Have they [whoever is on the hot seat at the time] no sense of shame? No sense of decency?" I want to puke. I hear things like that from members of both political parties.

 
At 12/21/2005 11:12 AM, Blogger samwich said...

G, I don't disagree with you. I did benefit but I do believe I earned every dime I got paid.

The strategy to get rid of me:

Aug 21, 2001, about three weeks prior to the Sept 11 attacks someone called Boeing Security and told them I (mr Vietnam Wacko) had a gun in my car at work. I had inside parking. 5 uniformed security came and 3 security cars blocked mine in to the space I was parked in. One officer had his hand on his gun while 4 ransacked my car and made a hell of a mess. No gun was found. When the keystone clowns were done trashing my car one security goon commented that "we can all go home and laugh". I commented that "I'll wait until I get to my lawyers office to laugh, he's beat this chickenshit backstabtorium 3 times. You clowns just made me rich".

I had a dr appt on Aug 27, 2001 to check a previous 3rd lower back surgery and the DR put me on disability leave. The leave was on Boeing medical forms, not Everett Clinic forms. The psychologist Boeing sent me to sent me from Seattle to Salt Lake City, Utah where my mother and sisters live. I had to travel to Seattle once a month for 30 months to spend 45 minutes with the Dr. At the end of the session he instructed me to "go home to SLC", a 13 hour drive each way. If I had missed a dr appt I would have been fired and gotten nothing. Just after my 55th birthday Boeing called me from Chicago to SLC and told me I was terminated or retired and could begin receiving my Boeing Company Retirement. I called my lawyer and he said accept it as I was gettin $8900 per month net + COLA for the rest of my life and retiree medical. My lawyer gets $550 per month out of that for 118 months as of Oct 2004 as his fee. I rolled it into T bills.

AS a lead, my job was training, job assignments and maintaining a production schedule. I would like to thank who ever made that phone call, it sure "screwed" me.
I used to tell my "Baltimore Colts Quarterback" supervisor Bill Cahill that I could not make him stay in the office and play cards all day today, but I could make him spend all day tomorrow sorry he didn't. His job is to take attendance, hand out paychecks and disciplinary measures.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

My crew has been cut from 12 to 6 and the new lead is a new hire for $15 per hour. All the "Old Pay Scale" $25 per hour mechanics are retired now.

Boeing is getting rid of the "old pay scale" workers and replacing them with "Two Tier Pay Scale" new hires ($13) who will get a 50 cent per hour raise every 6 months and take 12 years to get to top scale wages.

Don't take a gun to work, it worked for me.

S

 
At 12/21/2005 11:25 AM, Blogger samwich said...

AOW, if you want to succeed in politics,
DO NOT EVER PISS OFF A COPY WRITER.
The copy writer's messge is the "power of influence".
Power controls who has authority, authority does not control who has power.
Campaign Finance Reform is an attempt to negate that principle.

Boeing paid much better than an ad agency but I worked part time in advertising for many years.

S

 
At 12/21/2005 1:38 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

DO NOT EVER PISS OFF A COPY WRITER.
The copy writer's messge is the "power of influence".

OK..maybe I'm out of the Loop here, but isn't it the job of a copywriter to generate a sense of professionalism and credibility to a product? Even if the product is a candidate?
Unless you're willing to kiss your career goodbye aren't you pretty much limited in any freelancing of ideas. Copywriters want to increase sales and improve your competitive position ..not shoot themselves in the foot.

 
At 12/21/2005 4:42 PM, Blogger samwich said...

AC, agravated sexual assault is a felony. The county prosecutor was the Boeing backed candidate for Governor twice and State Attorney General once. My criminal complaint was brushed under the rug and Boeing told me I'd put up with it and keep quiet or not have a job. Maleng conspired to obstruct justice to obtain Boeing campaign money and effectively succeded, there by protecting Boeing from liablity. It took me 13 years to cost Boeing $70 million but $55 million was in one whack. Boeing spent more money keeping me from getting them into court than a reasonable settlement would have cost.
I warned Boeing to make it right or I would make Boeing sorry. Boeing, having a good laugh, chose sorry. 13 years and $70 million later Boeing decided that decision had been the wrong decision.

No I didn't get it but the taxpayers did. I also have cost Washington State Republican Party $56 Million hard money and Lord knows how much soft money since 1988. Utah's Republican Party, US Senators Hatch and Bennett also made the same bad decision. It cost them $1 Million in 2004 and any opportunity to win control of Utah's Second Congressional District for as long as I am alive. Maybe one day Boeing and the Republiucans will smarten up enough to buy the publishing rights to our sordid little tale and I'll be required by contract to shut up about it, but I DOUBT IT!!!!!!!!!!

I don't think I shot "myself" in the foot. I'm absolutely certain I've made my "political" bones.

The statute of limitations has expired on the assault and I am still producing results at the ballot box that cost Boeing money.
There is no statute of limitations to limit my vendetta against Boeing bought politician$.

Bu$ine$$ wi$e, bu$ine$$e$ do bu$ine$$ with the talent that bring$ in the money, or they go broke.

I consult for business at my good leisure. My retirement is guaranteed income for life and my dabbling in the markets picks 95 winners out of 100.

My wife does love her diamonds!

A copy writer's job is to produce results at the cash register or ballot box. What I lack in "pretty", I make up for with "effective".

$

 
At 12/21/2005 5:12 PM, Blogger samwich said...

New York City Cost of Living:

A decent apartment in Seattle which rents for $2000 per month costs $6000 per month in New York City. A waterfront condo, $300K for an upholstered shoe box and UP UP UP depending on size and floor level.

Duck, how much does a USDA choice New York cost per pound in the grocery stores and in a decent restaraunt? Seattle, $7lb & $20 for a 10 ounce dinner.

How much does an Austrailian Rock Lobster Tail dinner cost? $30 lb & $35 for a 6 ounce dinner.

Filet Mignon, $9lb & $25 for an 8 ounce dinner.

USDA Prime New York is $28lb and Filet $32 lb in grocery stores. My wife will NOT go to the restaraunts which serve USDA Prime, her heart won't take the sticker shock!

A gallon of gas in NYC?
A parking space in a garage?
A pair of 501 Levi's?

$

 
At 12/21/2005 5:36 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

I don't think I shot "myself" in the foot. I'm absolutely certain I've made my "political" bones.

impressive..no doubt

 
At 12/21/2005 6:05 PM, Blogger samwich said...

AC, Senators and Congressmen do not sic the Federal Protective Service or Homeland Security or the Washington State Patrol on you if you are not getting under their skin.

As a Coast Guardsman where are you stationed?

S

 
At 12/21/2005 6:08 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Samwich,
Anytime I hear about sexual assault, I get so angry. I've known of several cases which didn't make it to court. Repercussions of sexual assault often last a lifetime. I think I understand: My criminal complaint was brushed under the rug and Boeing told me I'd put up with it and keep quiet or not have a job....There is no statute of limitations to limit my vendetta against Boeing bought politician$."

What I lack in "pretty", I make up for with "effective". LOL.

 
At 12/22/2005 10:11 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

sam..
Active Duty
Cape May
USCG Cutter Courageous..Key West
Governors Island...electronics school
Coast Guard Base Miami Beach
not bad duty stations..
reservist until I was injured in a robbery.

 
At 12/23/2005 6:56 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Crusader,
injured in a robbery?

Sometimes, life just isn't fair.

 

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