Mitch Notes

Do Unions Matter?

Recently my application for membership in the American Federation of Musicians was accepted.  This is a major milestone for me, as a musician; I am grateful for the confidence that the leadership of Local 20‑623 has shown by accepting me.  This brings new energy to my ongoing study of the guitar, both in terms of performance and composition.

Why join the union?  For one, the imprimatur of union membership is not granted lightly.  But there is another, more practical reason: professional musicians deserve a professional wage.  Union membership brings union backing, a union contract, and a firm response to those who try to engage musicians for little or no money.  You’ve heard it all before:  “It’s for a good cause” or “It will be good exposure.”  It takes years to become a good musician, and we should be acknowledged by being paid commensurate with our abilities.

Unions really seem to be struggling for survival, and this is curious.  Ever read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair?  Get a good look at what working conditions were like in the meat packing industry in Chicago at the turn of the last century, and you’ll understand why unions were necessary in the first place.  Or research the bloody history of miners trying to organize from West Virginia to Colorado.  Then consider modern efforts to attack and demonize unions, as shown in recent failures to organize workers at a VW plant in Chattanooga in 2014 or ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to unionize various departments at Walmart.  When did ordinary workers become the enemy?  Why are organizations that stand up for workers rights being attacked so viciously?

The answer is, as it always has been, money.  But it’s also an issue of control; when people have financial power over you, they can control you.  Unions arose to give the workers a voice, and equalize the “balance of power,” to share that control.  This has most recently been demonstrated by the brave teachers in West Virginia, who stood together in their ultimately successful effort to obtain a modest pay raise for state workers across the board. Simply put, in unity there is strength.   

Leave a comment:



March 2018:  Why join the union?  See Mitch Notes...

February 2018: 
Terry Mitchell has been accepted as a member of the Denver Musician's Association (AFM Local 20-623).