Who Will Protect the Non-Union People?

Last week I had the joy of working for a Columbian Production Company. The project was an Infomercial and we all know that infomercials are usually low budget. However, this infomercial really brought low budget an all time low on production standards. First of all it was the most disorganized shoot I have ever been on. Nobody seemed to know what the infomercial was for (even the actors). Of course I asked before hand but their English was hard to understand and they gave vague descriptions of the product. I was told to get there by 6:30am and the producers didn’t bother to show up until 7:15. The actors were told they would be there for only a couple of hours but were kept there all day long. On the first day of shooting they ran out of food and water for us on the set. When I asked for them to please compensate me for my kit I was told, “It’s non-union.” But the worst came when I was not given a vegetarian option for lunch. All they had to serve was fried veal. There was nothing for me to eat. I actually had to send out my assistant to get me some food. Naturally I brought this to the attention of the producers asked the company to please provide me with a vegetarian option on Monday. They once again responded by saying, “This is non-union.” I said, “It doesn’t matter. I have a right to eat and I can’t leave set.” They actually asked me to not come back because they told me I was complaining about the food and the kit fee. These are standard things that are negotiated on a job, and the last time I checked it was the law to provide meal options that accommodate the entire crew. I was shocked. I’ve been working in this industry for fourteen years and I’ve never been asked to not finish the job! What is worse is that I was asked to not finish the job for asking for my basic necessities to be covered!

All of this brings up the question of who protects the non-union worker? Unions were formed to protect people from being taken advantage of by the employer, but you have to be in the union for them to protect you. And if it takes you years to get into the union who is going to protect you while you are working? The reality is that there is more non-union work then there is union work. So how to we protect ourselves from being taken advantage of by people like this Columbian production company?

First of all we must create a deal memo before we start any job. The only way to protect yourself is to get it in writing first. Then you have no know what the laws are governing your craft in your state. Most of all we must stick together. Join an association that will protect or at least support you. There is power in numbers. And when all else fails, there is always legal counseling. I’m a big fan of prepaid legal services. For as little as $16 a month you can have access to legal counsel. It’s always good to know what your rights and get advice when you feel your rights are being trampled on.

Michelle Lee
Makeup Maverick


May 5, 2009. Tags: , , . Hair & Makeup Jobs, Hair & Makeup Marketing, Working as a Hair or Makeup Artist.

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