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Black Dance Worker Exploited by Nonprofit

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We invite you, our allies within the dance community and at large, to support a young dancer in her financial recovery from an exploitive occurrence resulting from labor malpractices at the hands of a reputable NYC-based dance organization/nonprofit.

As a 22-year-old Black woman, dance worker, and a recent college graduate, she is experiencing the compounded effects of labor mistreatment. The impacts of this harmful malpractice include exploitative interview and workload processes, rescinding of employment, financial distress, and unforeseen housing, economic, and employment insecurity.

As Dance Artists’ National Collective continues to advocate for equitable and sustainable working conditions in organizations and cultural institutions, we hope that you can join us in supporting this individual. She is fighting to restore her economic stability after receiving no assistance or acknowledgment from the organization that led her into this predicament.

She will remain anonymous for her privacy and be referred to in the first person as “I/me/my/mine” as she tells her story below.

Below is a summary of the occurrence:

  • After a quarter of a year (4 months) of an application & interview process, where I had to perform free work for the interviews, I received an offer from the NYC-based dance organization on January 18, 2022, and waited to be on-boarded. I was told I needed to live in NYC to work this job and that the organization would be in-person by February 16, 2022.
  • On January 18, 2022, the day I received my offer, the organization requested I begin onboarding/working by January 25, 2022. I was not given an Employee Handbook at this point or any information regarding the full terms of the position beyond a vague offer letter. This rushed turnaround process by their HR personnel created high stakes and necessitated that I quickly commit and comply with their requests that I both relocate and start working as soon as possible. Consequently, I quickly began looking for apartments and, in February, signed a year-long lease in NYC.
  • On January 26th, 2022, my request for a more livable and equitable wage ($3/hour more) was declined–the organization stated they’re in a $500k deficit–and I was unexpectedly asked to work at least an extra 10 hours/week than originally posted in the job description and offer letter. During this conversation, I was also told by an individual in leadership that if I didn’t accept the extra hours, they’d hire an additional person to work this position in conjunction with me.
  • During this January 26th conversation, an individual in leadership told me I was strategically positioned so that I would be expected to work a full-time workload (30+hours) but be paid a part-time salary without medical benefits.
  • On February 1st, I stated that I would like to accept the position at the parameters I applied for/was initially offered (part-time, base 20 hours/week workload).
  • I had since been preparing to relocate and signed a year-long lease in February, knowing I still had this job.
  • I am consequently ignored from hiring staff for a month after trying to contact them at least six times, making it six weeks since I received the initial offer. After already having signed a lease and after four weeks of being ignored, on February 24th, 2022, the staff revealed that they ignored me because the Senior Director, who would have been my boss, had left the organization. Moreover, they’d spent that time restructuring the department.
  • On February 24th, during this conversation, I was then given an ultimatum via phone: If I don't agree to work the 30+ hours/week and instead insist on the original job description and hours I was offered and applied for, the NYC-based dance organization will have to rescind their offer.
  • Minutes after this call, without the opportunity to respond/consider the demands, I received an email including a rescinded offer letter signed by the Executive Director. The letter falsely claims the dispute was a 25-hour/week workload–a number never discussed.
  • As mentioned, I had signed a lease earlier in February and had been preparing to move. After the offer was rescinded, I had to break my lease and move back to LA. The cost of rent/living I had to pay while in NYC, the costs of moving, and the penalties for breaking my lease (loss of the first month’s rent and deposit) add up to $3000. DANC is trying to raise these funds in this campaign.
In this nightmare work situation, this 22-year-old Black dance worker who was newly entering the workforce signed a lease in a city in which she did not currently reside nor have the financial means to support herself without the NYC-based dance organization job she had been hired to perform. Any individual artist moving to NYC needs sustainable work, especially during a pandemic, and for this reason, the malpractice had an especially detrimental impact on her.

Not only was the aforementioned phone call with the ultimatum and all of the malpractices omitted from the letter used to rescind her offer, but the organization’s doubling down via the creation of an ultimatum cornered her into an exploitative work situation. It also punished her for not conceding and for wishing to stick with the job she was offered – the job for which she spent four months of labor applying to, interviewing, and waiting to begin. This was extremely unprofessional and manipulative.

This dynamic is white nonprofit neoliberalism– an exploitative and hyper-capitalist colonialist system of practices, that operates under the illusion of liberalism– and is a pervasive issue throughout the dance industry that DANC labors to combat.

In the spirit of collective care and mutual aid, we invite you to donate to this campaign to assist this young, Black woman and dance worker in her financial recovery from the impacts of organizational processes that prioritize obfuscatory capitalist and colonialist systems above justice and care for the community and the individual dance worker. We also ask that you share this campaign with your communities.

Thank you for your support,
Dance Artists’ National Collective

Organizer and beneficiary

Dance Artists' National Collective
New York, NY
Dance Worker

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