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AFTRA dancers rally for contract deal

Members and supporters speak out in various cities

Dancers for music videos repped by the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have held rallies in Beverly Hills, Miami and New York to press record labels for an updated contract deal.

More than 150 dancers and supporters attended a mid-day rally Friday outside Sony Music offices in Beverly Hills. Members also leafleted outside Sony offices in Miami and New York. AFTRA and the labels — inlcuding UMG, Warner, EMI and Disney — will sit down Wednesday for their first negotiating session in seven months, scheduled in the wake of repeated union complaints that the industry was stalling.

The Beverly Hills event included a “flash mob” performance by the dancers plus speeches by AFTRA board member Jason George, AFTRA local president Gabrielle Carteris, dancers Dana Wilson, Teresa Espinosa, Sabrina Bryan (“Cheetah Girls,” “Dancing with the Stars”) and Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Brian Garrity, a spokesman for Sony Music, said the label had no comment on the rallies or the negotiations.

“It’s so exciting to see so much unity in the dance community,” said Wilson, who’s performed with Justin Timberlake and Joe Jonas. “We dance because it’s our passion, but we also expect to be taken seriously as professional performers in the entertainment industry.”

AFTRA’s current deal on its sound recording contract includes an agreement by the labels to bargain for a music-video agreement to replace an agreement negotiated in 1986. The union’s contended that the 1986 agreement is outdated, especially with ad-supported streaming services, music videos generating growing revenues.

“AFTRA members remain focused on achieving a fair contract that will cover their work on music videos,” said Randall Himes, AFTRA National Director of Sound Recordings. “Continued delays by the labels have only served to strengthen their resolve to get back to the bargaining table. It’s time that these performers receive contractual protections and health and pension benefits for their work, particularly when music videos have become a new source of revenue for the labels. We look forward to having successful negotiations and moving forward with production,” he added.

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