Providing a look into the history of labor unions and why union voiceover work is important
Getting this out of the way first
Regardless of what some may believe out of pure envy or ignorance, if you are a voice actor working at home in your studio, commuting to auditions, paying taxes on work you book, marketing, and/or spending hours isolated in a booth…
You are in fact part of the American workforce.
Whether you live in states with the highest percentages of union members (California and New York) or not, you should still care about belonging to a union, and making your union stronger.
Quick facts to start
In 2013, the US Labor Department reported that only 11.3% of the workforce in the US belongs to a union. In an age of data and throwing around numbers to prove a point, the number may sound troubling, but it has actually stabilized over the past 3 years. The recent story of college football players attempting to unionize in the NCAA is a sign the nation is aware they are not being paid well enough.
The voiceover industry has always been a bit of a “2% leader & 98% follower” game, so if you are a person who finds safety in numbers, you may be of the belief that belonging to that 11.3% of America’s union workforce is bad for your business.
But if you use that logic, you should be happier as part of the 99% struggling to pay bills as you start a voice over career.
Arguments Unions Face
The ultimate obstacle a union faces is a public business or private business owner, who secretly lives by the belief, “I don’t see why money should come out of my pocket for a union employee. Why is it my responsibility to take care of them or pay more for them?”
These alpha-types throw around terms calling unions “greedy” or the people in them “lazy”; all with the same goal of saving money, while trying to make a person overlook the importance of “the worker”. The “worker” is the person who helps grow a company, makes a business owner richer, and therefore should be afforded some security.
If a business or business owner believes taking care of a worker is not their responsibility, but they should still be there to make them money, it is indicative of his/her value in people and customers.
That common thing people say
The common response of the union worker dealing with a business trying to save money would be, “Well, if you pay less, you get less quality.”
And that argument simply has to stop. It carries no weight and falls on deaf ear. It does not work because it does not talk to the business’ wallet.
Businesses put “profit and survival” ahead of “quality”, almost always. The real problem is not “a business against unions”. The real problem is that business owners are in business for profit, and by numbers, it “appears” to be less profitable to work with union talent.
A business will do whatever possible to profit more, even if that means trying to sell workers on the idea that “being paid less is ok, as long as you love what you are doing”. Needless to say, they sell this idea on youth who have the energy to deal with poor living conditions, as they are not tied down to any work experience.
They will sell the idea that being in a union is a bad idea by explaining costs involved to the younger talented worker, followed by asking, “Do you think you should pay for that? Do you think that is fair?”; a manipulative form of trivial arguing by counting the negative, and failing to focus on the positive to distract from the possible consequences of taking a positive action.
Why We Should Care About Unions? We have been here before
The main reason being: If a process in place is not protected by a system of laws and regulations that looks out for the common good of all; the common good is dictated by a savage few.
Since the 19th century, as unions formed in response to the industrial revolution, there have been businesses on one end pushing the limit of how much they can push workers, paying them less, with no regard for their well-being. Early unions collapsed due to poor organization, threats, and leadership. As time progressed unions became legally protected to organize, and in the 20th century they became strong.
But now in the 21st century, as we go through a digital revolution, new technology changes how we work every year while every technical advancement invented to make life easier serves as an argument to pay someone less. The belief system is that speed translates into a reason something should be cheaper, yet it is harder to create quality faster in abundance when there is no financial support.
Drawing a parallel
Whether you work in your home for $20/day of voice over work in 2014, or worked in a factory for $20/day in the 1930’s…
You were working hard, being paid less, and had no financial security. As you get older and taking care of your health becomes more difficult, or your family relies on you for support, you know that $20/day in voice overs can no longer be considered “doing what you love to do”. A sweatshop, whether in your basement studio or a factory, is still a sweatshop if you have no protection from a union and get paid horribly for hours of work that leaves you tired and exhausted.
If you want a voice over “career”, you will be able to survive, profit, and be a workforce, when you do union voice over work.
Keep it real and have serious fun taking what you do for a living very seriously!