Fittingly, Donald Trump wants to be inaugurated as President by forcing dozens of women being to do something with their bodies against their own will. The Madison Square Garden company owned by Jimmy Dolan – the trust fund baby who inherited Cablevision and the NBA’s New York Knicks – signed a contract to send the famous Radio City Rockettes to perform at Trump’s inauguration in January. Dolan’s decision has ignited a call flood that is going viral on the internet, aimed at allowing Rockettes who do not wish to perform for Trump to be pardoned from the activity without penalty or retaliation.
The women dancing in the Radio City Rockettes famous chorus line are both “embarrassed” and “appalled,” and one woman didn’t take management’s decision lying down. Phoebe Pearl took to Instagram with a poignant statement talking about why she doesn’t want to perform for “a man that stands for everything we’re against”:
“I usually don’t use social media to make a political stand but I feel overwhelmed with emotion. Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling. I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident”
Sadly, the Rockette’s union – American Guild of Variety Artists (AVGA) – is not backing their employee’s free speech rights or representing their interests to management, and instead timidly siding with management over the performance contract and pretending that Trump is just like anyone else elected to America’s highest office – which is simply untrue.
Just last month, the union representing hit musical Hamilton’s performers was threatened with violence for the actors’ in a play about America’s founding fathers exercising their own free speech rights.
AVGA released a statement to the Rockettes which was obtained by BroadwayWorld.com and authenticated. The statement didn’t confirm reports that AVGA told Rockettes who refuse the assignment they could be sued or fired, but it draws a clear line in the sand for those full-time dancers who refuse the assignment. Unfortunately, the dancers’ union is ignoring the unique danger posed by Trump’s presidency, the acts of terror his backers perpetrate against unions and is instead trying to normalize the situation:
“We have received an email from a Rockette expressing concern about getting “involved in a dangerous political climate” but I must remind you that you are all employees, and as a company, Mr. Dolan obviously wants the Rockettes to be represented at our country’s Presidential inauguration, as they were in 2001 & 2005. Any talk of boycotting this event is invalid, I’m afraid.”
“We have been made aware of what is going on Facebook and other social media, however, this does not change anything unless Radio City has a change of heart. The ranting of the public is just that, ranting. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but this does not change your employment status for those who are full time.”
“This has nothing to do with anyone’s political leanings (including AGVA’s), it has to do with your best performance for your employer, period. I will reiterate that if Hillary Clinton was the President-elect, nothing would be different, and there would probably be those who would not want to be involved because of her. It is a job, and all of you should consider it an honor, no matter who is being sworn in. The election is over and this country will not survive if it remains divided.”
“Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace.”
The email continues in bolded, underlined font: “If you are not full time, you do not have to sign up to do this work. If you are full time, you are obligated. Doing the best performance to reflect an American Institution which has been here for over 90 years is your job. I hope this pulls into focus the bottom line on this work.”
Broadway World noted ominously the difficulty of finding full-time employment for dancers in New York City, “In 2015 just 1.4% of people who identified their professions as “dancers” in New York were employed full time according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” The unprecedented dilemma facing the hard working ladies of the Rockettes, which inspired Occupy Wall Street activists like Keegan Stephen to call for action.
But… there is something YOU can do. Tell Radio City that you don’t support the decision and that you as a consumer believe they should reconsider. Flood their phones and email inbox. Do something outside of a Facebook rant.
Take action. Email the following: feedbackradiocity@MSG.com
Call AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists), as well:
Make sure you express that if a Rock does not wish to perform, she shouldn’t have to, and there should not be a repercussion.
In 90 years, the Radio City Rockettes have become an American institution, but Donald Trump threatens to tear all of that apart by paying the man who owns their brand to hold his workers hostage to the job.
If you care about the people under the makeup and costumes, please lift a phone and contact the union whose job is to represent the interests of these dancers to their company’s management and ask them to do the right thing, nicely.
Cover photo from PerezHilton.com
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.