Unions

Discussion in 'Wise Talk!' started by Jimi Michiel, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. Jimi Michiel

    Jimi Michiel Forte User

    Age:
    35
    1,884
    5
    Mar 22, 2005
    Boston
    Hi Wilmer,

    I have some general questions about unions. At what point is it useful to join? I am a grad student who is trying to start gigging around town (I just moved to Minneapolis). My rates for weddings and such are above scale, but I have a weekly church gig that is slightly below scale. Would I have to give that up if I joined the union? I remember in high school I did a theatre gig that was non-union and my band teacher was not happy that I was a "scab."

    The reason I ask is that I spoke with a former teacher of mine in Syracuse (who is not in the orchestra), where I am thinking about taking an audition, and he told me that members of the Local 78 would probably receive preference in getting invited to the audition. I'm in Syracuse a lot of the time when I'm not in school, but I don't know if joining that union to get a better shot at getting invited to the audition seems like a good idea.

    Thanks,
    Jimi

    PS. I'm sorry if I seem naive, I feel like I'm not really sure what questions to ask, but I know this will be more important as I get older...
     
  2. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    3,418
    374
    Nov 19, 2003
    Brooklyn,NY
    Some orchestras have local auditions before even announcing an opening to the public. Union members are usually the first to know of any openings.
    Being a union member only opens the door, you get no extra points for being a cardholder.
    Wilmer
     
  3. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    2,459
    29
    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    For me I get jobs because I am in the union. I get along well with the contractor in my local and he calls me a lot. One other thing the union has done for me is, a couple of times I didn't get paid and they stepped in and got the money for me.

    I don't think the union cares how much you get paid on non union jobs or if you play non union jobs.

    That's how it works around here.
     
  4. Siegtrmpt

    Siegtrmpt Mezzo Piano User

    549
    3
    Nov 21, 2005
    Virginia
    A lot depends on where you live and what you want to do. If the gigs you aspire to are union then it's a good idea to join up.
     
  5. PH

    PH Mezzo Piano User

    Age:
    63
    545
    0
    Dec 2, 2003
    Bloomington, Indiana
    In my life I have been a member of 4 different locals. It has been my experience in every case that the unions do not get you any work as a freelancer. Your playing ability and personal connections get you work. If you reach a point where your ability and network causes work to be referred to you, THEN you will want to join the local.

    As a jazz musician you would often find that being a member of the union and strictly adhering to union protocol for booking, etc. will bar you from more work than it will provide. This is the reason that most players I know in most cities belong to the union but do a great percentage of their work as non-union "off the books".

    Unless you belong to a major orchestra or are in a good relationship with a contractor for shows and recording in a major city, you will probably starve trying to exist on union work alone in the present artistic and economic environment.
     
  6. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    2,459
    29
    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    If the local contractor has work and you are not in the union, Why would he call you?
     
  7. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    335
    89
    Nov 27, 2003
    I have no experience with orchestral situations, but as far as needing the Union for other types of playing, especially private functions, parties, receptions, etc, it has never been of any use to me.

    The only time I was ever in the Union was when the group I was playing with got a gig in a hotel where the hotel employees were unionized. Unless we joined the Union, we couldn't play. So, we joined because the employer of the band paid our fees - so we joined at no personal cost. But, here's an important point about that story...it was 35 years ago! In this area at that time, Union activity was strong because this area was a manufacturing town with strong labor activity. Nowadays, that has all shut down, so that situation probably wouldn't happen again - even that hotel is closed and is now a senior citizens apartment building.

    Never had a problem getting paid, had plenty of gigs, always got more than scale...like someone said above, join if you must and your situation requires it; otherwise I wouldn't be bothered.
     
  8. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    3,418
    374
    Nov 19, 2003
    Brooklyn,NY
    I feel very strongly about unions.
    In NYC, Jimmy Owens and Bob Cranshaw are working hard to get jazz musicians to join the union, file contracts and pay work dues.
    Some very famous older musicians had no pension or health coverage until they joined the union.

    Without unions we would be back in the old days where conductors routinely fired half the orchestra for little or no reasons. The Philadelphia Orchestra, with Stokie conducting, led the field in that abuse.
    Ormandy, recorded the Minneapolis Symphony's whole season by added a paid week to the orchestra's season, then recording the rep they had played that season. That was the fuel that sparked the Symphonic record contract.

    Club owners would stiff the musicians at the end of the week. Recordings would be made and not paid for. Forget about working conditions.......you took what you were given.

    Professional musicians MUST have a union.
    Wilmer
     
  9. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    335
    89
    Nov 27, 2003
    Actually, I support Union activity in general.

    I think most kinds of workers need some of protection against the arbitrariness and unfairness of many employers. It often isn't enough to do a job well, or be good at a job - there are many, many unscrupulous bosses and employers out there who will cause trouble for you if possible.

    But, I think that the strength of the labor movement in general in this particular country has substantially eroded in recent years, and isn't likely to come back to be an effective force which can offer the protection many workers need.

    Employers today have too many options to avoid dealing with organized labor, including reorganization, mergers, downsizing, outsourcing, and off-shoring jobs.

    While much of that may not have a direct impact on musicians, I do believe those general economic conditions and workplace realities have weakened the power of Union activity, and puts workers of all kinds in a less than desirable position vis-a-vis management.
     
  10. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    2,459
    29
    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    Lets face it, with the exception of a few cities the union isn't very strong.
    I have had three jobs where I didn't get paid and the union got the money for me. The jobs were not contracted through the union either. So in that instance the union helped.

    I get a lot of jobs through the union, so that is a plus.

    I do agree that for the most part unions in general are dead. Musicians in general tend to get pushed around. I can't figure out why. You can have a doctorate and be out playing a job and get talked down to. This is why I think it is important to keep the musicians union going.

    Maybe we need new leadership or something.
     

Share This Page