Since it's labor day, let us link to Dave Robb's handy list of guilds and unions representing workers in the entertainment industry.
According to latest documents the unions file with the U.S. Department of Labor, there are:
• 156,894 voting members of SAG-AFTRA
• 118,829 members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
• 78,764 members of American Federation of Musicians
• 43,076 members of Actors Equity
• 21,162 members of the Writers Guild of America West
• 15,114 members of the Directors Guild of America
• 7,259 members of the American Guild of Musical Artists
• 4,261 members of Teamsters Local 399
• 3,718 members of the WGA East
• 2,624 members of the American Guild of Variety Artists
• 630 members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 40
Then there are some 12,000 members of NABET-Communications Workers of America; more than 6,000 members of the Producers Guild of America (though it’s technically not a union); nearly 2,000 members of Plumbers Local 78; about 1,100 members of Studio Utility Employees Local No. 724; some 270 members of Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 755, and 79 members of the industry’s smallest union, the Guild of Italian American Actors. ...
When I was a neophyte business rep in 1990, I had a Disney TVA exec tell me:
You know, there was a time when labor unions were really necessary. But companies are enlightened now. They're not really needed the way they used to be.
I didn't agree with him then, but I didn't argue the point. Two decades on, I still don't agree. But I had a chance at the start of the 21st century to remind hims about his about his old statement about "not needing unions" in his Disney office all those years ago. He was at another studio by then. I was (again) sitting in his office. The guy stared at his folded hands and said:
"That was kind of a dumb thing to say, wasn't it? Obviously wrong."
As we paddle deeper into the new millennium, it gets clearer and clearer that the executive's statement from a quarter century ago was a teensy bit inaccurate. I meet few people working in show biz (or anywhere else) who think they're better off now than they were two decades ago.
But hey. If you're among the delusional few who believes the old weekly paycheck is fantabulous, and the working conditions sublime, you can't credit the unions, because they have little or nothing to do with it. In private industry, they rep 6.7% of the work force *.
George Carlin voices a somewhat different sentiment than that Disney rep, one that's a wee bit closer to my own:
* This percentage is higher in the movie/television business and conditions are somewhat better, but you get the idea; hard to swim against a current that is flooding against you.
Add On: College prof and former TAG e-board member Mark Farquhar sends us a fine podcast regarding the history of wages in the good old U.S. of A. (It's also linked at the top).