The Unified Union

by | Feb 17, 2012 | Unions | 10 comments

Did I mention I recently joined AFTRA?


Well, I did.

I feel crappy about it…but that’s because my father is turning over in his grave.  I just know it.

He taught me that unions were bad business.  I mean… the lessons were  ingrained.  Drilled-in. Hereditary.

I didn’t really understand at the time.  I do now, and I respect his position, still.  However, I have my own reasons for choosing union, and it took me years to get there.

Broaching this topic is tantamount to inviting a Mac v. PC battle…a stand-off between conservatives and liberals…a classic debate between atheists and Evangelicals.  ‘Seems wherever earnest conversation about unions occurs in VO circles, the flame wars begin.

I won’t re-hash that now.

Instead, I’ll point out simply that unionS  (SAG and AFTRA) are on the cusp of a merger.  Union…not unions.

That has great appeal to me.  Maybe…just maybe…union leadership (here comes the commentary) will embrace the future instead of languishing in the past…find camaraderie instead of engaging in rancor…curry common sense, rather than the arcane.  Crap!  There I’ve gone and done it.  Now I’ll get flaming comments.

Hey CourVO…you’ve been in TV News for 30+ years…you mean you’ve never had to join?  Nope.  AND, I proudly live in a right-to-work state.

Here’s the strange thing.  I joined the union, and got a confirming email from my home office in Phoenix.  That’s it.

No FAQ file, no manual, no welcome letter, no explanation of benefits, no employee handbook, no nothin’.  I guess I’m just supposed to KNOW what to do now?

So, Dave, if you feel so bad about this decision, then why’d you join?

Well, I  mentioned the hope of optimism in the merger…and the other thing is this lingering belief that I’ll never break through some perceived barrier to the BIG VO money unless I join.  And speaking of money…that’s the 3rd reason:  joining AFTRA (the least expensive of the two unions) now shoe-horns me in to the merged union for the minimal fee with full rights and benefits to the NEW entity.  Yes, eventually, I’ll be paying a higher annual fee, but this gets me in on a dime (so-to-speak).

There are still lots of questions about that supposed full SAGAFTRA status.  For instance, if I were to consider declaring Fi-Core…how would that stand going into the merger?  The following FB thread is revealing:



OK, so I guess that settles that.

The rank ‘n’ file SAG and AFTRA members (that’s me!) vote on the merger before the end of the month.  I can only imagine the wrangling over rules and protocols will continue after the merger (and I think the merger WILL happen).

Interestingly, Steven Lowell of V123 posted a valuable analysis of union-contracted jobs made through  First of all, there’s PLENTY of that sort of thing going on at this often-maligned P2P site, and secondly, Steven makes this observation:  “…the process to work online using union-contracted voice talent has not been innovated well enough to be called “simple”…”.

THIS singular observation is what I hope for the new Union.  Simplicity.  It may be a Pollyanna dream.  Institutions — like the federal gov’t — tend to get top-heavy and mired in its own verbiage and rules.  But for the new union to truly succeed in the 21st century, it’ can’t continue to do 20th century moves.

Please take the time to see Steven’s blog.  The data is displayed in easy-to-read pie charts, and makes a solid point.




CourVO Newsletter


  1. Frank Frederick

    Good for you Dave.

    The union(s) have place in the 21st Century; and I hope the combination will address today’s world and our futures as both on and off camera talent.

    We get nowhere looking in the past. SAG and AFTRA – MUST look to tomorrow; today to survive.

    Frank Frederick
    “The Voice” tm

    • CourVO


      I know there are still a lot of questions…but it’ll all come out in the wash – so to speak…and I suspect not all of it will please everybody. These things never do.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. Juliette Gray

    I joined too Dave. I am ready for what innovations this will bring. I believe the past can be a good guide and love history but life is about today and to an extent about tomorrow. People who live in and are invested in the past run a risk of being left behind. We have taken a small risk possibly into uncharted territory but I know I might be kicking myself down the road if I didn’t grab this option. If you ignore the fork in the road you run the risk of being permanently lost or having to take a way too long route to get back to just where you started.

    • CourVO


      How true! I see you’re an optimist, like me…I don’t know how else to be. It’s just going to be smart for us to continue to monitor the developments in the new union closely.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Dave Courvoisier

  3. Rich Owen

    Well, we’ll all have to learn the secret handshake! I too elected to join while the joining was easy and cheaper that after the merger. I’m betting that the merger will go though so it is a good investment. And LA is a union town so I’m hoping that this will permit access to better paying gigs and better job opportunities.

    See ya at VOICE 2012!


    • CourVO


      How cool! Yes, you are sitting in the cat-bird seat to take advantage of the SoCal opportunities. I’ll be watching to see how you do.

      I appreciate your stopping by and adding to the conversation.

      Dave C

  4. Terry

    I’m curious to hear how that plays out for you. I have chosen the opposite route, but as is always the case, I have some reservations. I’ll await your reviews “as time goes on.”

    • CourVO


      There’ll be plenty of misgivings on my part, too. As usual, there are more than a few shades of grey in these marginal decisions.

      Thanks for being here.

      Dave C

  5. Jeff Davis

    I am a full member of SAG and FiCore AFTRA. The last time this merger nonsense came up for a vote, I was not FiCore and had two votes against merger. My question: since AFTRA and SAG serve two distinct industries (with some overlap), how does a merger make a “stronger” union? Just saying’.

    Also, I was on the board of AFTRA for two years and was elected to conventions twice. At the time, AFTRA had its feet firmly planted in the past and didn’t have a clue about new technologies, That has changed (a little) but there are areas of the Voice Over business they are still clueless about. Being FiCore is the best thing I could have done… Aside from the ability to do Union and non-union work, there were strong political reasons. And when I do union work, I follow union rules and, of course, the proper contributions to H&R are made. By the way, unions are supposed to inform new members about FiCore but how many newbies are told about it?

    Another consideration is the retirement fund(s). Is there a motivation within the union(s) power structure that needs to have these funds co-mingled? Will they be?

    This failed before but, like all zealots, opposition means nothing and it becomes only a matter of time before they chip away to make it happen. There is an advantage to having a large number of newbies come into AFTRA because many want that SAG affiliation. The merger proponents know this, which means it smacks of dirty pool. If you’re new to AFTRA, congratulations… I’m sure it means more now than it will in a few years. You can kiss your non-union work goodbye. If you violate Rule 1 and do non-union work, even for your best friend, you will be fined heavily, perhaps thousands of dollars. If it sounds like I’m down on the union, keep in mind I was a full member of AFTRA for 30 years and I am still a full member of SAG. When I do film work I completely follow the rules.. But I would not be able to survive with Rule 1 in AFTRA as a voice talent and opportunities (many that pay much more than scale) would have been lost to someone else. There’s no downside to FiCore except for some occasional scorn from people who’ve already become anchored in steady AFTRA work. They’ve got theirs. I could go on for another thousand words about this but we all must follow what we believe… As for me, I will use my one SAG vote to resoundingly vote NO.


    • CourVO


      I always love hearing your point of view, ’cause it’s so well thought-out and stated.

      I’m chomping at the bit to be Fi-Core, but keep hearing from some people I really respect, to hold off until at least the vote is over. I’m still trying to find my way through the maze of what it means to be a union member. Not many answers coming to me…looks like I’m gonna have to go out and beat them over the head with a club, and drag them back to the cave.

      Best to you and yours,

      Dave Courvoisier


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