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The Union, what is it good for?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Dr Rod, Apr 7, 2006.

  1. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    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.
  2. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2005
    I had a couple instances where the Union really helped back me up on clubs trying to stiff us on pay.

    Actually two places in a row signed us for a very good price, then tried to lower the price once we started playing, hoping that we needed the money too much to complain.

    We got paid in full in both cases, without playing but one night at one place and not even once at the second club.

    Both club owners are or were locally famous for pulling that kind of stuff but had never met union musicians before.
  3. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Akami, glad to hear.
  4. The AFM has done some good lately on the topic of air travel. Restrictions are still the purview of the Federal Gov't, but AFM petitions and lobbying have produced Federal Memos that you're supposed to take with you when you fly with your instrument. All it really guarantees is that you must be allowed to ship your instrument; they can't deny you (though ignorant staff will still try). Fees will still vary, and you can't be sure if you can put a cello or bass in a seat or if you'll have to hand-check it,... but that's progress.
    As far as the overall usefullness of the Union, I never understood it either until my livelihood was music, full time. Then I saw that without the Union, I likely wouldn't be able to make a living!
  5. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    That is actually real progress, thanks for this valuable info KPO.

    Where can I get a copy of the Federal Memos? (my local has no clue)

    And yes, I agree with you, if you are a full time musician with a collective contract, then you need the union. But as a feelancer in Michigan, I used to play for 4 orchestras that were all within one hour away from each other. That's what you needed to do to scrape together 10K a year, and all four towns had their own fully staffed union that didn't recognize the dues paid in the adjacent towns. On that meagre salary all musicians in the area had to pay 4 different full memberships, got four copies of the union newspaper every month etc...we were paying close to 5% in union dues only, with a very sluggish performance.

    Take care and thanks again KPO
    PM sent

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