Unions are a bit like onions. Not only are 5 of the 6 letters in both words exactly the same but they are both made up of different layers. Starting with the rough and flaky exterior (the workers) the layers of the organisation get increasingly bitter the closer to the centre (the hardcore unionists) you get. Well yeah ok it’s a pretty flimsy likening but I was determined to give it a go! So as you may now have realised this blog is about unions and one union in particular.
I’ve been a member of the Musicians Union now for years and not once have I actually used any of the services – I mean ANY of the services. The only reason I became a member was because the band I was in at the time was promised a slot on a famous TV show but because this was the Beeb we apparently all had to be members. Needless to say not all of the band became members and we never appeared on the show, not that I think that had anything to do with not appearing on it mind – I think it was all pie in the sky anyway. But ever since then I’ve keep up my union payments and had no service from it apart from the occasional newsletter and chance to vote in certain elections (such as casting a vote on who’ll lead the Labour party – abstained). Considering the fact it costs me £12 per month for the privilege I think I’m getting a pretty bad deal, I mean £12 would buy me 8 bottles of Brew Dog’s Punk IPA in Morrisons! So I suppose the question I’m asking myself is “ain’t it about time I just cancelled it?”
Now I’m no big Union man but I understand the need for them. Unions do help protect workers and have helped usher in the modern way of working but give a Union too much power and you’ll end up with the situation we had in the UK in the 1970’s with strike after strike for the most ridiculous reasons (such as parodied in the Carry On Film “Carry On at Your Convenience”). I am sure that the Musicians Union do great things, indeed they often brag about the marvellous things they do in their newsletter. It’s just a shame that none of those marvellous things have directly affected me a great deal.
When I think how much I’ve filled their pockets over the past six years and what I could have bought instead it makes me a bit sick. That’s £12 every month for 72 months that’s £864 that has gone from my pocket. I’ve effectively given £864 to charity so should I really feel that bad? Well if I had to give £864 to a charity then I suppose I’d choose one that’s close to my heart so a music charity would be up there as an option. But then we run into another problem; I don’t believe in giving to charity, not the way most of them are run anyway.
I’ll touch on this quickly. I think most charities do a marvellous job but are still fundamentally flawed in that many of them, especially the leading ones, actually pay staff for their services. Effectively they are no longer a charity but a non-profit company. You see as a charity people assume that the money you give goes directly to help that cause, which of course it doesn’t. Charities, especially big ones, tend to have directors that demand huge salaries so before anything goes to the cause the big cheese needs paying. That sort of leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, why the hell am I just giving money away just to fill the pockets of some fat cat? If however you knew you were giving to help a not-for-profit company then you know that wages were being paid but that the company would turn any profits over to good causes. Looking at it in a more honest way like that makes it easier to part with your cash don’t you think?
Anyway back to the root of this blog; the MU. As a musician who is not planning on making a fortune, playing a 100+ gigs a year or making TV appearances on the Beeb, do I really need the MU? I would love to hear your thoughts on this because right now I cannot see any reason why I should bother renewing my subscription.
That’s all for now.