There are some myths and false claims for why people are afraid to join the union. Here’s how to deal with those people and how to encourage union membership.
The conversation begins:
“Oh, so you’re a musician, too! Do you belong to the union? What union? Don’t you know about the American Federation of Musicians? I’m a member of Local XXX because I want to make music to the best of my ability, and to do so, I need appropriate compensation. While music making is an individual endeavor, everything work-related is part of a much bigger picture. My ability to work is impacted by outside influences beyond my control and that is where union membership is important. I’m individually responsible for my music making, but only with the leverage of a larger group of people with similar interests can I have influence on decisions that affect my ability to work making music. Join the union and become informed. All of the roads to being a working musician in the US or Canada lead back to the influence of the American Federation of Musicians.”
The union doesn’t do anything for me.
“Okay, so you joined the union and nothing changed. Did you join the union, or did you simply send in your application and dues and get into the database? The union isn’t a cable subscription service. It’s more like a gumball machine where you drop in the coin but actually have to reach into the spout, pick out the gumball, and then chew it to get the full flavor of what you paid for.
“The union is interactive with a key word being ‘active.’ Have you attended a new member orientation? Have you met with your local officers? Have you been to a union meeting? If you have, did you speak up? If you raised an issue was it in the context of ‘the union needs to fix _____?’ And then your perception is that nothing happened? Did you follow up with your local to find out whether your issue has been examined? Have you offered to assist with finding a solution? Many of the work issues we face as musicians don’t have simple solutions but by interacting with other member musicians we can find answers that will either help us resolve the issue or provide us with information that takes us in an entirely different direction making the original issue less unimportant.”
All I want to do is show up to my job, make music, and get paid.
“You, and everybody else. No musician I have ever met became a musician so they could join the union and become involved in union activities. We get out into the workforce and start realizing there are issues beyond our individual control. Then it comes down to choices: we can either get out of the business or we can find resources that help us address our issues and find workable solutions. Generations of musicians have turned to union membership as the best resource for finding those solutions. Those of us who have found the union, and benefited by union membership, have an interest in helping other musicians join us as well. Greater union membership equates to more resources and more control over our work.”
For more talking points when having a conversation about the union check out the AFM Bylaws, Article 2—Mission.