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Monday, October 02, 2006

Think Before You Sign

Did you know A Chorus Line was based on the lives of real chorus line dancers? I had no idea. Of course, I've never seen it, although my junior high choir did sing "What I Did for Love," which, in retrospect, probably shouldn't be sung by 13 year olds.

I'm digressing again. So, the play was based on the real life stories of real life chorus line members. They signed away the rights to their stories for $1. In the original production, they were given royalties as well, but with the current revival, they aren't seeing a penny.

According to the New York Times:
At a rehearsal break during the first workshop, the performers were handed release contracts, under which they would give Mr. Bennett rights to use all the interviews in exchange for $1. The document stated that real names could not be used in connection with the stories without consent.

“I knew it was wrong,” said Priscilla Lopez, who told her own story in the character of Diana Morales. “But I thought, ‘If I don’t sign this, I’m not going to be a part of it.’ ”

Eventually, everyone signed, even though there were misgivings then, and regret now. Here is speculation on why everyone signed:
Tony Stevens, who along with Mr. Bennett and another dancer, Michon Peacock, organized the first taping session, said that the willingness to sign also came out of the dancer mentality. “When you ask an actor to do something, their first response is to ask ‘Why?’ ” he said. Dancers, on the other hand, do not ask questions; they just perform.

So, here's Evil HR Lady's question: Are you treating your career as a dancer or as an actor?

A friend of mine worked for a company that had not had their employees sign non-compete agreements. One year they decided to rectify that situation and produced astoundingly unfair non-compete agreements just before bonuses were to be paid out. Everyone was told--if you don't sign you don't get a bonus.

These were bad non-competes. They included clauses that prevented employees from working for competitors in any fashion even if the employee was laid off. And because they were in the drug industry, they prevented people from getting jobs in any medical profession at all. They were so broadly written that, technically, the company could stop you from leaving your job as a sales rep and going to work as a janitor in the local hospital.

People freaked, but they started signing. They wanted bonuses, and they thought, "they'll never enforce it to that level." Until one director said, "No." She convinced her department that their freedom was better than a bonus.

Then another director re-wrote his, removing the over-broad clauses and told HR he would sign his version, but not theirs. His department followed suit.

In the end, bonuses were paid out to everyone, including those who didn't sign at all. My friend was very glad that people at this company had actor mentalities and not dancer ones.

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