I am not in any unions (I am in the Freelancer's Union, but it really isn't a union, only a way to get health coverage). I am a freelance editor who is thinking about maybe joining the Editor's Union in NYC, but would love to discuss the pros and cons of joining with Cow members either publicly or privately. Anyone care to chime in?
I mostly edit commercials and promos for Motion GFX/Design companies. Being that the industry is fairly young, there does not seem to be the same standards and practices as there are in the film and the strictly live action commercial world and I am finding myself in awkward and seemingly unfair situations concerning overtime and compensation.
Really, the only reason to join the Union is if you need to work on a show that is Union. If you don't, then there is no point. I am a member of the Union, but my status is on hold (meaning I pay no dues, but get no benefits)...as I haven't worked on a Union show going on 4 years now. To work on a Union show, you must be Union. And the pay is comparable to what I get now, but with added benefits like a retirement package and medical benefits. And the occasional free movie screening.
But many places don't go Union, because they can pay me the same rate, but not have to pay the EXTRA to the union. The money ON TOP of my salary that goes to the union to pay for health, retirement, and the Union's overhead.
Only join the Union if you get Union work. Pretty useless otherwise. They don't look for work for you.
Yeah, I'm in the exact same boat as Shane. I'm on a hold status. Now and then I get a wave of Union jobs, but it is the exception not the rule. If a Union show comes your way, and they want you, you will get in. Editior's Guild is not like the DPs, they are a little more laid back. There are great benefits in the Union, but you need a constant stream of hours.
When I came to LA, I joined right away, but it took 9 months before I got my first Union job. Like Shane said, they don't help you with finding work at all, so wait till a project comes calling.