Comedy and TragedyHave you ever been part of a team, choir, or musical ensemble?

Members of teams, regardless of activity, work together, rely upon each other and are united to achieve a common goal.
Sound familiar?
Take a peek through the lens of team work and see how it relates to governing bodies.

What Makes For A Good Team?

Being in harmony with your team mates while collectively maintaining accountability in the midst of striving to reach a common goal (or goals) is extremely important, if not critical, when building and fortifying a foundation for success.
The reflection above could be applied to organizations, institutions and even unions, which leads me to my question:

What Do You Expect From a Union or Guild?

Share what your expectations of a governing body serving voice over professionals would be by leaving a comment on this article.
Looking forward to hearing your ideas,
© Härkönen


  1. I expect the unions I paid hefty sums of money to join and continue paying yearly dues to represent my best interest as a performer. I joined the unions in the early 1990’s in Chicago. I am a professional more by my behavior and state of mind on a job than by the union cards in my wallet. That said, I joined them in Chicago in the early 1990’s because I wanted the professional status associated with being a member of the performing unions. I served on the Detroit SAG council for 5 years and as an alternate council member on AFTRA for one. I have great respect for my fellow performers who put themselves at the helm of contract renewals and negotiations, and volunteer their time to serving on committees to help bring the best working and performing conditions and opportunities to the areas they live. That said, I do not feel that the current SAG contract negotiations are being handled in the best interest of all its members, or even in the large majority. I believe we are lucky to have whatever work we can get a hold of in this economic downturn. I expect my unions to consider all its members when even considering throwing the word “strike” out on the bargaining table – not just one coast. Thanks for this opportunity to post. Teri Clark Linden

  2. I’ve always found the union model an odd concept in the world of free-lance work. Adapting Stephanie’s team metaphor, when I work as an independent contractor, my goal is to be seen as a member of my client’s team. The presence of a union defines the client/talent relationship as adversarial, and one-price-fits-all makes talent just another commodity.
    In a general sense, I would want a union or guild to be a center of training, perhaps a vehicle for group benefits such as insurance, and a source for advice on how to bring greater value to my clients, making me more competitive against non-union rivals. I don’t care as much about the role as arbiter and enforcer of work rules and rates, and I’m not sure I need or want a union managing my retirement funds.

  3. Let’s distinguish among 1) Unions, 2) Guilds and 3) “Governing Bodies.”
    Labor unions made sense in a time and place where there was a single dominant employer, and little employee mobility. A miner with no way to improve his skills or leave the area in search of better prospects, is ripe for exploitation – a good candidate for a labor union. In our present circumstance of multiple employers and unprecedented employee mobility, unions are an anachronism.
    A certification board or Guild such as SaVoa ( can be valuable to prospective employers as a shortcut to direct knowledge. An auto mechanic *not* certified by ASE may be just as good as a certified mechanic, but the ASE paper increases the confidence of the customer, who usually is in too much of a hurry to compare the actual skills of both. This is a good thing if done right, and would benefit young/new talent the most.
    I’m not sure what a “Governing Board” would be, but it doesn’t sound appealing at first blush. Stephanie, maybe you could tell us what prompted your topic, and what problem is to be solved by one or all of these kinds of groups. All the best…

  4. Thank you for your comments everyone. This topic is always an interesting one for me and I’m grateful to hear your thoughts.
    As for what prompted this article, it isn’t completely out of the ordinary for me to explore various aspects of voice over work and topics that discuss the performers unions. One of the reasons why I ask questions such as these is to give people a platform to discuss items that are of importance to them, giving room for both sides to talk and potentially come to realizations, resolutions and or the inspiration to take the discussion off the blog and into cafes, meeting halls and boardrooms.
    I look forward to hearing more from our community about what they feel would be beneficial to their progress as professionals.
    Best wishes,

  5. It’s a timely topic. We need to talk about it.
    Much as I understand Teri’s concerns (shout-out! hi girlfriend), I can’t agree with Dan that unions are an anachronism. Perhaps what we need is a different union or guild than what we have. But we must have something. It wasn’t long before I joined AFTRA that one non-union producer expected me to use the bushes for a toilet because he didn’t want actors using his bathroom.
    Not all employers are nice. Union or Guild protections have got to be in place.

  6. To respond to Petrea’s comments: in the US, union membership in general has been declining for decades. It is only rising for government employees (aligning with the “monolithic employer” scenario I outlined above). About 80% of American workers do find them an anachronism, or otherwise not worth the trade-offs.
    I am well able to walk away from work if a producer treats me with contempt. I’m not sure why the shrubbery story is a case for unionization.
    The AFTRA voices I know, on the rare occasions when I do see them, talk wistfully about the “good old days”. The non-union voices are much more likely to be working.
    A labor union is an attempt to create a monopoly from a diverse labor force. If the employer is a monopoly, you might be able to justify the ethics of fighting fire with fire. Otherwise, you are engaging in something you would find abhorrent if done by others. That consideration seems to be ignored too often.

  7. While my experience of unions through acting is mixed (, I would be very interested in a Q&A featuring various union reps’ and voice artists’ (both pro- and anti-union) perspectives. While, of course, it would be incredible to do such an event live – and have option for on-site membership application included – such a discourse could also be handled well in a webinar or teleconference setting.

  8. Hi Erin,
    Thank you for reading and sharing the link to your article (I just visited and read every word). I appreciate hearing your views and also think it would be interesting to have such an event (I’d say live in person is best to make sure everyone is on the same page) and have a question and answer period after a round table discussion with both union, non-union and other industry representatives present.
    While it may be difficult to get everyone in the same room it is doable if each side will commit to an open dialogue with the purpose of improving relations, ultimately for the sake of the profession and the people within it.
    Best wishes,


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here