New York City Ballet Orchestra Musicians to Hold Rally at New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala

The rally will take place on Thursday, October 5th.

By: Oct. 03, 2023
New York City Ballet Orchestra Musicians to Hold Rally at New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala
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The musicians of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, represented by the NYC musicians' union (AFM Local 802), announce a “Rally at the Gala” with live music, union allies and elected officials at the New York City Ballet's annual fall fashion gala on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 5pm outside of Lincoln Center.

The gala has brought in $27 million to ballet management since its inception. That high level of fundraising stands in stark contrast to how musicians are being treated in negotiations, says the union.

Musicians are in a bitter fight for a fair contract with ballet management.The orchestra is currently working under an expired contract for 9 percent below their 2019 compensation. A major sticking point in the ongoing negotiations is management's failure to agree to a fair wage adjustment that would compensate the musicians for going without pay for 15 months during the pandemic, then submitting to a harsh 15 percent pay cut – even though the ballet's endowment was worth $263 million at the time. (The ballet also received more than $10 million in taxpayer-funded pandemic support.)

Management also is insisting on significant healthcare concessions despite the fact that the ballet is experiencing record-breaking fundraising and ticket sales.

In response, musicians are engaging in massive public rallies, including one on Sept. 19 that flooded the sidewalk of Lincoln Center with hundreds of musicians, union allies and supporters on the opening night of the ballet's 75th season. That rally was attended by many of NYC's biggest labor unions, including members of AGMA, SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild of America, Actors Equity, IATSE, and others. (WATCH A VIDEO RECAP)

Musicians have set up a petition to demand a fair contract; to date, almost 3,600 supporters have signed. In early September, the orchestra overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike, which would allow the musicians to strike if contract talks break down. The musicians are providing updates at their public website, and invite supporters to RSVP for the Oct. 5 “Rally at the Gala” here:

LOCAL 802 PRESIDENT Sara Cutler said: “Musicians are suffering. Our message to the management of the New York City Ballet is loud and clear: you can't continue with business as usual while you mistreat your musicians by not offering a fair contract. We invite all supporters to attend our Rally at the Gala on Oct. 5 at 5pm outside of Lincoln Center.”

AGMA PRESIDENT NED HANLON, who represents the dancers of the NYC Ballet, said at the musicians' Sept. 19 rally: “AGMA will unwaveringly support Local 802 –  and that commitment is even more significant here at this house where both unions have a substantial presence in this company. This incredible 802 orchestra — along with AGMA dancers and stage managers — are the glue that holds the New York City Ballet together.”

AFM PRESIDENT Tino Gagliardi, who is leading the negotiations on behalf of the international musicians' union, said in a previously published statement: “Musicians of the New York City Ballet deserve a contract that allows them to work with dignity and enjoy affordable health care for themselves and their families. They are not being offered the wages and benefits they deserve and are instead being asked to make financial concessions once again.”

MUSICIAN JULIA DeROSA, principal oboist with the New York City Ballet orchestra, said at the Sept. 19 rally: “Ballet is nothing without live music. George Balanchine said that dancing is music made visible — and that doesn't happen without this orchestra.”

MUSICIAN Ethan Silverman, who plays bassoon in the New York City Ballet Orchestra and who chairs the musicians' negotiating committee, said in a previously published statement: “The reputation of the New York City Ballet exists thanks to the hard work of all of the creative artists, both on stage and off, including the dancers, the musicians and the stagehands. When our audiences come to the ballet, they expect that the creative workers who make the magic happen will be treated fairly. But since ballet management is not offering us a fair contract, despite months of bargaining, we have to take our message to the public.”

MUSICIAN STEPHANIE MORTIMORE, committee chair of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, said at the Sept. 19 rally: “The MET Orchestra stands strong with the musicians of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. We call on ballet management and their board of directors to invest in your musicians and preserve your treasure of an orchestra.”

MUSICIAN COLIN WILLIAMS, committee chair of the New York Philharmonic musicians, said at the Sept. 19 rally:  “These great musicians will show that we're strong, we're not going to give in, we will not accede, and we will stand firm in our support for this institution, these musicians, and for all of the great art that we make here.”

New York City Ballet Orchestra Musicians to Hold Rally at New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala