It's Labor Day weekend in the United States, and so in that spirit, this week's vote is about the musicians' union!
I am a longtime member of the American Federation of Musicians, joining it as a teenager so that I could be paid for my first professional orchestra jobs. At first, I was pretty annoyed that a chunk of my paycheck went to "union dues"! But over the years, I've come to appreciate the union and the many things it does.
For example, have you ever taken your violin on an airplane? That's a privilege in the U.S. that the union secured for all of us, members or not: the provision in the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012 that requires air carriers to let you take your violin on the plane without charge.
The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) was founded in 1896 in Indianapolis, for "any musician who receives pay for his musical services." By now, it has grown to an organization with 80,000 members!
I have been a member of the AFM Local 47 for more than 20 years, and other locals before that. The union has helped me in some very important ways. First, it has helped negotiate the contracts for all the professional orchestras I've played in. Having a "union" gig means having pretty reasonable play, regular breaks, limits on rehearsal time, and a whole host of things that protect the musician.
Beyond that, you might be surprised by a few of the other benefits - when I wanted to buy my violin, I was able to secure a loan through AFM Local 47's credit union. It is not easy to get an instrument loan in any other way, so I was extremely grateful that my union offered this option!
During the last few years, during the pandemic, I have also benefited from having health insurance coverage through the union. Not very AFM local offers this, and it's also very hard to qualify (to be honest, I rarely do), but it has been a godsend during a couple of difficult years.
I'm curious: have you ever been in the musicians union? Was it for violin or something else? Were you a member for a long time, or not? Was it helpful? Or not? Is there a musicians union in your area, or not?
Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.