#75 Unions Part 2

I’m still not sure how the New York director pulled it off – but somehow our three-month tour in Japan was not under union jurisdiction.  While in Japan, the company women ran into a problem.  They had been ordered to do a commercial for Japanese television – which was clearly outside of our contracted work (eight shows a week).  The director promised the women extra pay (upon arriving back in New York) and with that – everyone was pretty happy.  We returned to New York.  Several of us (me, the company manager, the office manager and the tour manager) left the company (our contract was over).  The rest of the women decided to stay with the company and soon they were back in rehearsals getting ready for another tour.  One day, I got a call at home.

One of the dancers, Mary wanted me to ask the ex-company manager (who I saw pretty much daily at another job) if he knew what had happened to the money from the Japanese commercial.  She was right – if anyone would have known if the money had been paid from the Japanese to the company – he would have.  So I went and asked him.  The answer?  The money had been sent to the company before we had even left Japan.  I called Mary and relayed the message.  She then asked me if I would help them recover their owed pay.  I refused.  After working with this director for over a year, I already knew that I was not going to win.  I personally had already written off the whole Japanese commercial experience as a “lesson learned” thing.  I suggested to Mary that they had a better chance of fighting the director with a united front – AND it probably wasn’t too smart to plan their attack strategy at the studio where they could be overheard.  I also – now here’s dumb part – offered my apartment as a place for them to hold their strategy meeting.  Did I forget to mention that Mary and I were friends?  A few days later, I got hit with a lawsuit for defamation of character from the director.  Boy – I hadn’t seen that one coming.  It was a pretty tense couple of weeks.  I was banned from several studios where I normally did my daily training and I received a couple of threatening phone calls from the director.  It took a few days to figure out what had happened.  My friend Stephanie (who also still worked for the company) gave me the details.  The director found out what the women were up to and called all of them into her office.  She threatened them with “Never working again in this city”.  Mary told the director that it wasn’t their idea.  It was mine.  From that time on, I made a decision to never represent another dancer other than myself and it is a decision that I have never regretted.

While working for a company in Vancouver, I had a clause put into my contract that no other dancer had.  They would fly me from Toronto for their seasons and when the season was finished they would fly me home.  The company simply didn’t work enough continuous weeks for me to consider moving to Vancouver – and I wanted to keep Toronto as my main residence.  During the Vancouver season, I always found a place to live temporarily (at my own expense).  I think we worked out what I considered to be a great solution.  None of the other dancers knew about the arrangement because – the way I figure it – my business is my own business.  In the middle of the second season, the company manager made a gaff that made my arrangement public knowledge.  There was one other dancer from Toronto who flew back and forth as I did, but he paid for it himself.  I was to fly home for the long mid-season break and after talking with the company manager about my flight arrangements, she called the studio and asked the other dancer about when she should arrange his flight.  He was flabbergasted to find out that he was not receiving the same benefits that I was.  He told his friend, who told another dancer, who told another dancer and so on.  The whole company was in an uproar.  The dancers who lived in Vancouver wanted monetary compensation for what they felt was an unfair bonus for me.  A company meeting was quickly called with the director and the manager.  Everyone argued for an hour while I sat quietly on the side listening.  Finally the director turned to me and asked me what I thought.  “It doesn’t really matter to me what everyone decides to do.  My flights are part of my contract and it’s pretty clear to me.  Either you pay for my flights and I work for you, or you don’t pay for my flights and I don’t work for you.  I don’t really care what anyone else wants.  I don’t negotiate for other people.”  I can’t remember what the outcome was.  All I know is that my flights were paid for by the company and I continued to work happily for them.

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