I don't know what your experience might be, but being back in the freelance scene I find myself wondering why I should pay such heavy union dues, other than for the fact that if I don't, I can't play at some gigs (blackmail). Or just because I want to get the mag with the openings. I think the union is pretty helpful if you actually have a full time orchestral job and a big collective contract, but for the vast majority of us.... I remember the union from one of my former part-time gigs agreeing to $5 in gas money for a 150 mile trip, in the collective contract. To this day, the union has not been able to even get us the right to have stools at the gig. Ask a violinist to bring his/her own chair and see what their answer is. Not only do we carry the biggest instruments around, but we have to bring our own chairs. Both, the ISB and the AFM haven't been able to negotiate a fair bass shipping/luggage policy with the airlines. To this day you don't know if on the day of your flight the airline will take the bass for free, charge you $90, or just refuse to take it. You are at the mercy of the employee that happens to be there on that day. Knowing what to expect would take a lot of stress out flying with a bass, which is most usually a nightmare. These are examples, but there are countless other problems that I have shared with union representatives, and they have just not even tried to do anything.