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September 14, 2023


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Gee thanks for posting the 2d week's casting. I had been looking for that. I thought they had discontinued the lobby posting a couple years ago, as I always used to check it for cast changes on my way into the theater. Interesting to know they still do that, but would also be interesting to know why it is not yet on the website.

I agree on healthcare costs. Everyone has to pay these days, and sometimes the higher paid employees pay even more, either through contributions or a higher deductible than everyone else. I can't remember who it was, but once, somewhere, in connection with a potential strike by a ballet orchestra, someone said "well everyone knows the orchestra members are the highest paid people in the company."

Allie, I really think that both sides are lying to some degree in their media-ed attempts to garner public support and sympathy. In the end, we the ticketbuyers will bear the cost, whatever it is.

We do not "expect free health insurance"! We don't have free health insurance. Far from it.

We except to be paid a fair wage.

Orchestraneous, thank you for writing!!!!

Can you please clarify what the health insurance coverage is? If NYCB has lied about it, we need to know. Here is what company management said in a statement published by Playbill:
"A primary issue during the negotiations has been the musicians’ refusal to make reasonable contributions for healthcare benefits when all other NYCB employees on the same health care plan have been doing so for years. Since electing to be covered by NYCB’s health insurance plan 14 years ago, NYCB’s musicians have received free, year-round individual coverage while working only 24 weeks each year."

Is the part which we bolded in their statement a lie? Do the musicians NOT receive free, year-round individual coverage? It's important to know who is telling the truth and who isn't and whether one or both sides are fudging. Please help us out, Orchestraneous, by clarifying what the individual health insurance arrangement is. Particularly, do the musicians want NYCB to pay more of their insurance premiums than the company pays for other employees?

I'm honing in on this because as a former union member in another industry who had to fight for any health coverage at all, I understand how easy it is for managements to twist the truth. What are you paying for individual health insurance coverage? Let the public know the truth.

Also, if cost of health insurance is an issue why are you in NYCB's plan for past 14 years? Doesn't your union have a multiemployer plan you could instead join and to which NYCB would make contributions? Might be less expensive.

It's reasonable to question comparative health insurance coverage. However, the overriding issue is total compensation. Do we really expect anyone to give up a portion of benefits without a compensating increase elsewhere? I really doubt the "you've had it too good all these years" argument is a realistic negotiating tool. But real numbers need to be talked about, regardless of who's making the argument.

True what you say. I think both sides are making mistakes by taking the contest public while also being reluctant to let the public know the details of the demands & offers. It's possible that disclosure of the numbers would not yield the public sympathy that the union desires. Regardless of the final outcome, the balletomane proletariat will end up footing the bill for the musicians' gains with increased ticket prices and fees.

If we're going to talk about "total compensation," maybe we need more info on total comp components -- like average NYCB earnings of an orchestra member for their 24 week gig, pension benefits and who funds, 401(k) benefits and amount of any employer match to that, life insurance, disability benefits, etc.

That's correct, but too complicated for sound bites. My point is still that no one wants to accept a reduction in total compensation unless it's being applied universally, and because of different contracts that's extremely difficult to accomplish - and other benefits are rarely consistent across the different unions. On another point: I doubt the added costs will have a serious impact on ticket prices, as it's easier for the company to raise more contributions, and ticket sales make only a partial impact on total revenue. Prices are elastic - it can be self-defeating to raise them too much, although those who pay $240 for a prime orchestra seat can probably pay more without a problem. And even the Metropolitan Opera has managed to keep the "cheap" seats reasonably priced through decades.

Hagulnd et al, thank you for writing about the orchestra. The Musicians of NYCB are very eager to communicate with our audience.

We deserve a fair contract that compensates us for the sacrifices we have made over the past four years and the double-digit inflation we have faced since our last increase in 2019. We went without pay for 15 months, took a 15% pay cut when we returned to work in 2021, and currently are working for about 9% less than our 2019 compensation.

Based on information we gathered from other sources, the financial position of NYCB is better that it has ever been. We have learned that the Ballet’s ticket sales have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, their fundraising efforts have been highly successful, and their endowment funding is robust. They also are receiving both federal and City monies, have an aggressive capital campaign, and have exceptional fundraising efforts surrounding the 75th anniversary year.

Regarding health care: at the same time the ballet is refusing to make a fair wage proposal, it is insisting on shifting significant health care costs to the musicians. It has proposed that our family medical costs (yes, families "pay for health insurance") more than double and that individuals assume substantial costs that previously were paid by the Ballet. These cuts would leave us even further behind our 2019 compensation, and many of our members simply cannot afford this kind of a sudden increase.

All of that being said, we are fully prepared to address the escalating health care costs that most people in this country are facing. We have made several proposals to the Ballet that they have rejected. But we simply can’t accept a cost shifting proposal that could wipe out any negligible wage proposal the Ballet has made.

Orchestraneous, thank you so much for this information. However, it is terribly hard to reconcile the versions of facts that the union and NYCB are publicly offering.

How does the union's "went without pay for 15 months" square with management's "NYCB paid all of its employees, including the musicians, for the entire 2020 spring season when COVID first led to cancelled performances" and "NYCB provided retroactive relief payments to the musicians in one lump sum" after the musicians' union lost the arbitration following refusal to consider the "relief payments" that the other unions agreed to?

Didn't the musicians get all the same state and federal unemployment benefits that everyone else got?

As far as using 2019 as a comparison to illustrate that the union members are down 9% in total compensation, others are down as well. According to the Form 990s available, the absolute highest paid employee at NYCB received 21% less compensation in 2022 than in 2019. 21% not 9%.

I don't know what the answer is. I just know the massive good will and public support that was generated when the Met Orchestra & Chorus and Met management worked hard to put together a truly innovative contract after Covid AND THEN GIFTED THE PUBLIC WITH THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY, HEALING CONCERT IN DAMROSCH PARK WHERE THEY PERFORMED MAHLER'S RESURRECTION SYMPHONY. PEOPLE WERE WEEPING WITH GRATITUDE.

Everyone please get back to the negotiating table. Be reasonable. Be innovative. Be forward-thinking. Be more innovative.

FWIW Pro Publica has NYCB's tax filings (latest is fiscal year 2022) and none of the musicians or dancers, except for Andrew Litton, have high enough salaries that merit being listed on the top-earning spots along with the executives (Katherine Brown, Wendy, Johanathan Stafford etc).

They're also still paying Peter Martins (not sure if this is combined use of his work and separation pay) and randomly have investments in the Carribean lol up to $67,520,997

Sorry here's the ProPublica link: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/132947386

Thanks, SR.

For future reference, NYCB's audited financial statements for the most recent 5 or so fiscal years (currently most recent seems to be fiscal 2021) are on their website (under section "About Us"), though I do not believe 990s are there.

Great reunion last night, on stage, after Diamonds! Happy to see our senior dancers, who gave us so many years of beauty and love. Bravi, bravi, tutti!

Hi Haglund,

I am no longer employed by NYCB, but I was during the time period relating to your specific question below:

Haglund asked: "How does the union's "went without pay for 15 months" square with management's "NYCB paid all of its employees, including the musicians, for the entire 2020 spring season when COVID first led to cancelled performances""

Both are true. The orchestra was paid for the 6 weeks of Spring 2020 cancelled performances even though they were not held. After that, the orchestra went unpaid until the Fall of 2021. 15 months. It might be helpful to note that the orchestra is not typically paid at all in the "off weeks" when NYCB is not performing.

Haglund also asked: "And "NYCB provided retroactive relief payments to the musicians in one lump sum" after the musicians' union lost the arbitration following refusal to consider the "relief payments" that the other unions agreed to?"

This also true. The important missing detail is that the lump sum was not equal to the 15 months of lost pay. I cannot recall the exact values, but I believe that lump sum was in the range of 15 to 20% of what 15 months of 2019 Salary would have been. Remember that the NYCB received State and Government support SPECIFICALLY FOR PAYING EMPLOYEES, including shuttered venue funds during that time. I find that whole issue frankly irrelevant to the conversation about real 2023 wages, but I also wanted to point out that the "lump sum" was NOT 15 months of pay.

I think the more important question for me overall is: have all NYCB employees taken a pay cut in relation to 2019 wages, and if so, how much? It's clear from filings that the top paid employees are making less, but that's largely irrelevant at least to me. If the Dancers, Stage Crew, Staff, and Admin are all down 9% then that's just the way it is and the conversation stops there. My impression however is that this is not the case, and the Staff were returned to full pre-pandemic pay in 2022. From my short time working at NYCB, I felt that the Musician's Union and the NYCB Orchestra was a first line punching bag for NYCB management to test out new ways to reduce union compensation. If the Orchestra musicians agree to a hypothetical 9% pay cut, now there's precedent for that level of reduction when contract negotiations begin with the other Unions. That's just my perspective on what is happening here based on the nature of Union negotiations while I was there. Management can likely afford to give the musicians the pay rate they are requesting without any issue, but if that creates an on-the-books Union pay increase, then the other Unions are justified in also seeking that same increase, and the costs do start to become challenging if uncontrolled. The most frustrating thing about these negotiations if that the NYCB Management will never say exactly how much money they are trying to save, or even how much they have to spend. If there was more financial transparency it would help everyone be more reasonable and informed. A typical negotiation at other ensembles I have worked for is usually something like this: The Orchestra requests a Pay Raise. The Management says that there is no budget for that raise, but if the players amend their contract to allow for an additional number of Youth and Film contracts they can apply for educational grants and bring in audiences for the films. The exact details of that are what takes the most time to iron out over the negotiating table.

To continue with personal opinion, one of the most frustrating things about the NYCB Orchestra job was that the Orchestra desperately would LOVE to be playing more concerts, especially free-to-the-audience orchestra concerts. My dream was an added week of free community concerts Before every Season featuring SAB, NYCB, and Lecture demonstrations. A great way to give understudies a chance to perform roles, and to try out things in liver performance to see if they work. If the concerts were free, the NYCB could utilize grants to cover funding, and hopefully increase the audience base for the paid core of the season. Sadly, the management has repeatedly declined the use of the NYCB Orchestra for special and outdoor performances like BAAND despite strong Orchestra support for such activities. In addition, an entirely separate freelance orchestra is contracted for the SAB Spring term performances. Simply put, the orchestra only performs for 24 weeks by management design. From my perspective, while I was there the NYCB musicians were really hoping to be used more for projects outside of the established Ballet season, but never had a chance to do so.

I hope that helps illuminate the Orchestra side of things a little, and help you move towards supporting the Musicians in this negotiation!

Thank you so much for this perspective -- especially your call for more transparency on the part of management. Transparency is the key to resolving this whole matter, IMO. However, the musicians' union is not helping its cause by complaining that members didn't get paid for 15 months without acknowledging that members would never have gotten paid for 15 months anyway given that its contract is for 24 weeks, not 74 weeks, AND without acknowledging that members received some amount of relief pay after initially refusing it in addition to the regular government unemployment benefits.

NYCB received government grants to help with wages, but the government grants were never intended to make paychecks whole and had to be applied throughout the organization, not just to the musicians.

I had to laugh at the New York Times' pro-union perspective in its selective coverage of this particular dispute, because the NYT handled the Covid relief situation just like many other companies: they threw people out the door -- goodbye & good luck finding a new job in the middle of this awful pandemic.

I could not agree more that NYCB is not leveraging the talents of the orchestra to the extent that they should. The orchestra should have its own gigs at Carnegie Hall just like the Met Orchestra does. They should have recording contracts AND there should be some sort of combined effort among the musicians at NYCB, NYPhil, and Met Orchestra to present a few free music concerts on the Lincoln Center campus to draw more people to all the beautiful venues. And the companies should take turns piping their live music out onto the plaza at night.

I - and I think most people -- fully support the musicians in their effort to win a fair contract that the company can afford without forcing members of other unions or non-union employees to pay for it OR expecting ticketbuyers to cough up more money. So who's going to pay for it? Good question.

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