Importance of Unions (for me)

I won’t go into specifics about a most recent issue, because first, I like everyone involved, on all sides. Second, I don’t know all the facts at this point. And third, and it would be to no one’s benefit for any specifics to be made public. However, I’m writing this particular post to once again explain the reason why unions are so needed, and why it’s so important for all professional actors to become union members, and then act in solidarity, to keep the union strong.

Something has gone sideways in a project that employed my acting services in the past, apparently payments are behind, and now other issues are being addressed. The great thing is that my union has reps addressing, handling, researching, and chasing everything that needs to be chased down.

Now, this is not the first time my unions have acted on my behalf, or on behalf of other actors I’ve worked with. They’ve chased down payments on commercials from big respected national companies, and they’ve, of course, negotiated strong, standard contracts, which I’ve worked within for over twenty years.

Work a day or two on a set as a non-union actor, along side union actors, and often you’ll find the benefit of those collective agreements, and why so many look forward to getting their card. I have had medical insurance, and it won’t be so long from now that I’ll be looking at collecting my pension.

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Some of you may know this story already: My first professional TV job as an actor, before I was in any of the unions… I was hired to play a super hero, and for twelve weekends, fly to different cities, to shoot an episode at different stadiums. I believe it was eight of us that were employed as actor/writers, and we were hired in part to come up with our own dialogue on the spot, based on stuff we self-generated and a writer’s thin scenarios.  After we flew out of New York City, and arrived at our swanky hotel a thousand miles away, the producer came to us with our contracts… The contracts offered us far less than what we were all told before we accepted the offer of employment, days before we got on the plane.

Smartly, the eight of us acted in solidarity, demanding time to discuss amongst ourselves, and refused to sign anything without bargaining as a collective. This was before emails and text messages, so it was really eight people’s words against the producers what we had been told… However, proudly, the eight of us held firm to what the deal was, agreeing that we’d all walk if we didn’t get what we were initially told.

After many tense hours, the producer suddenly remembered the original deal, and we got what we were promised, never asking for anything more. Twelve weeks turned into sixteen weeks, swanky hotels turned into mediocre hotels, limos turned into gypsy cabs, we were put in positions that weren’t always safe, comfortable, and something’s had nothing to do with acting or writing. However, as actor/writers we all did our best, went in positive, and rolled with it, until things would go way above and beyond.

The show never went any where because allegedly that same producer, that had trouble remembering what he told people he promised to pay them, was embezzling funds from the executive producer. Allegedly, inflating production costs, and then allegedly, spending very little actual money… He’d, allegedly, say he rented a complete lighting package, and on set there would be one little 3″ Fresnel, an inky.

The whole thing ended up with only one episode of sixteen, roughly cut together, that I have never seen, court papers filed, and settlements out of court, after much stress. Let me tell you, to have a union behind you, professionals working for you… That’s a much better deal.

Support, join, act in solidarity.

– Quiche Out

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