Tag Archives: Why Union

#WhyUnion? Mike Vaccaro

This organization represents the best musicians in the world for negotiations of wages and working conditions. The major reason to join the union is to play with the best musicians. Other perks include the good guaranteed wages, health insurance and a pension fund that helps you make your retirement plans. In your younger years you decide if you need a supplementary retirement plan depending on how much union work you do. You also have the staff of the union to help resolve disagreements with employers. Continue reading

#WhyUnion? Justin Smith & Danielle Ondarza

Hey, do you remember that time you accepted that job with that swing band. It was just a quick two hour show on guitar. It didn’t pay all that well…but you thought, “What the heck…..I’ll just be sitting around twiddling my thumbs otherwise….I should go play….it might be fun.”

Remember when, after you’d said yes, they then called two rehearsals?


That wouldn’t have happened on a union job.

Remember how when you arrived at the first rehearsal you saw the book and realized you needed three different guitars? And a banjo? And a mandolin? And a pedalboard? All that stuff to cart around and play, and no extra money?

That wouldn’t have happened on a union job.

Remember the night before the two-hour job, they gave you the call time…. three hours before downbeat? You know….so you could do a soundcheck….that turned into another two-hour rehearsal….remember? And then once you started playing….it ran another 35 minutes longer than they promised….because they really wanted to get through all the tunes…

No overtime pay for you.

That wouldn’t have happened on a union job.

But hey…at least you got through it. Glad that was over! Whew! Remember how you went to the bandleader to get paid the $275 he’d promised you? Remember how he said, “Oh…yeah….Let me just cash the check from the venue and then I’ll pay you guys all out…three days, tops!”

Remember how three days later nothing came. So you wrote to the leader and he said, “Oh yeah…lemme get that over to you ASAP.”

Six weeks later you got a check for $200. So you wrote to the leader and said, “What happened to the other $75?” and he responded, “Well we didn’t really get the turnout we were hoping for….and we thought you guys were going to do more on social media to promote…”


That wouldn’t have happened on a union job.

When you work union, you’re protected by contracts. You have contractors there to ensure they’re enforced. That means both you AND your employers have to hold up your ends of the deal. There’s no taking advantage. No asking for favors, no shorting you, no asking you to take on more work and not compensating you. And if ever a problem does arise, you have a whole organization behind you to make sure you’re taken care of.

Add to all this, your employer contributes to your health and welfare fund. If you do enough work, you qualify for totally affordable health insurance at a great price! That may not seem like a huge deal if you’re just starting out….but trust me, it’ll be a big deal for you down the line.

But perhaps the best part of the deal is that when you go to work, you find yourself surrounded by some of the most incredible, and sometimes legendary, musicians in the world! Walking into a room with heroes and knowing you’re all there to work together is one of the most gratifying parts of this job. It never gets old.

So…why union? That’s why.

– Justin Smith, Guitarist
Member since 2002

Why union?

There are a hundred reasons why I proudly work union jobs. The simplest reasons are the ones that seem like givens to those outside of our industry: that I will be paid the agreed upon wage for my services, that I will receive overtime when I stay late, that my work conditions will be safe, and that I will receive meal and restroom breaks.

However, as I have graduated from young newbie to middle-aged freelancer there is one issue that rises above all others: health insurance. When I accept union work I receive contributions towards qualifying for health insurance. One or two jobs won’t get me there, but over the course of the year I earn enough to qualify.

A few years ago I went from perfectly healthy to having a life-threatening incident that put me in the hospital for a week. Had it not been for Local 47’s health care plan my family would have gone bankrupt from the cost of that treatment and the subsequent care that I needed. I am now considered healthy and stable (and plan to stay that way!), but the reality of having good health insurance has never been more clear.

Health insurance for musicians is rare, and we are fortunate to be part of a Local that provides coverage. I am thankful every day for that safety net, to the union jobs that get me there, and to our union for keeping the fund alive, even through a pandemic when no one was working.

– Danielle Ondarza, French Hornist
Member since 2003

#WhyUnion? John Clayton

“As a jazz musician, I’ve spent my life watching my heroes and colleagues being cheated and taken advantage of in professional situations. We’ve all got stories. I believe that organized solidarity and unity is key to battling these very real and negative elements. That’s where a union comes in. If the people we work for perform dishonest acts, we need to hold them accountable. Our combined voices and numbers are our strength. The stronger our union, the stronger our voice. That’s the way it’s supposed to work and we should all find ways to create as strong a union as we can.”

– John Clayton, Bassist
Member since 1976