Why to file your contracts and pay your work dues on your free-lance gigs
I have written before about the importance of protecting yourself by using and filing a union contract for your free-lance gigs (all of our previous electronically published articles and columns are archived on this website). Sometimes the Local or the AFM can help in a situation where there wasn’t a signed contract, but the fact is that there isn’t a whole lot we can do legally without a signed agreement. Many times, musicians are afraid to ask their potential employers about a contract, and just take the gig without even bothering to ask the question. You might be surprised how many times they would be willing to sign. In fact, some employers, particularly corporate ones, think that you look much more professional if you bring your own contract. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and if the employer is leery about signing a contract, you can explain to them that it legally protects them as well if you or your band doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. To quote Deacon John Moore, the President of Local 174-496New Orleans: “if we don’t put a reasonable value on our music, no one will. And soon enough, we won’t be playing at all.”
Both our Local contracts and the AFM ones are easy to fill out, and examples of different types are in the members area of the website under the documents section. If you have any questions about them, I would be happy to answer them.
A contract that is filed with the Local office has the full force of the AFM behind it to protect you. This is what those 2% Work Dues (4% for recording work, as this helps to fund the AFM’s Electronic Media Services Division) are for. Your Work Dues are what really keep the Local’s operations going. They are required to be paid on any union contract that is filed, and the more of you that are filing your contracts, the more Work Dues will come in, and the more we will have to spend on needed projects. Even if you don’t have a union contract on a gig, I would encourage you to make a Work Dues contribution on the work that you are doing anyway. If everyone that is not now filing contracts started making this 2% contribution on the work they do have, the amount this would raise would be in the five figures, which would give the Local that much more resources to use to protect musicians and fund special projects. So filing your contracts and paying your work dues help all of your fellow members in addition to protecting yourself. That’s what the union movement is all about.