Monday, March 18, 2013

Can Unions Save the Creative Class?

SALON is running a series on labor unions in the 21st century. My contribution is a piece asking if struggling artists, musicians, authors, scribes, etc. can make use of a union or collective to negotiate these strange times.

I spoke to a number of folks -- a laid-off journalist, a music historian, screenwriter who helped lead the Hollywood writers strike, cultural observer Thomas Frank -- for this piece. And took the whole thing back to about the 12th century. Complicated issue.

Here it is.


Sam said...


Your article describes the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra as being on strike. We are not on strike, but locked out by our management.

At no time did we ever threaten to strike this season, and we were entirely willing to continue "playing and talking" beyond the expiration of our contract on Oct. 1, 2012. We also offered to submit our entire contract to binding federal arbitration to avoid a work stoppage. Both of these offers were turned down flat, and we have been locked out since October 1, 2012.

If you could make this correction to the Salon piece, it would be much appreciated. There is very little understanding in the general public as to the difference between a strike and a lockout, and it's important that the press report this detail accurately. Thanks.

Sam Bergman
violist, Minnesota Orchestra

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Destiny Allison said...

Hi Scott,

I'm interested in your articles on the demise of the creative class. I'm not sure unions or guilds is the answer, though I agree we are returning to a more local/regional focus that, if managed well, has the ability to stop the slide. I'm working on an article for THE magazine in Santa Fe, NM and wonder if you would be willing to talk. My email is Regardless, I look forward to your book and hope it's progressing smoothly. All the best,


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TCinLA said...

A very interesting article. As someone who somehow managed to survive the Great Screenwriter's Strike of 1988 (but not the way any of us thought we would), I would list that strike as being as harmful to writers as the musician's strike of 1942-44 was to big-band music.

That strike of 1988 killed a system in which screenwriters actually got to live a middle-class unionized life and one in which you did not have to be a son/daughter of the upper middle classes with a trust fund in order to survive and get to work as you do now; the loss of those voices has a lot to do with the decline in overall quality of Hollywood and the reason why the only thing writers seem to "know" anymore to write about is the crap they learned in Fillum School.

Sadly, it was the union members themselves who did it to themselves (with the help of their "leadership") just as happened in 1942-44.