Nothing in this world is black and white anymore, but the struggles of the Wisconsin unions and those of all the state workers behind them in Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and who knows where else make it necessary for freelancers to choose sides.
Are you siding with the power of big government and crony corporations, or with the dignity of the individual worker (or in our case, “individual content producers”—that’s what photographers, writers, musicians, and artists are called in contracts).
Because those of us who cannot unionize have been run roughshod over for the last thirty years to the point where, not only can we not collectively bargain for better wages….in more and more cases, we are expected to work for next to nothing, or even for free…oh excuse me, I mean “for links, credit, and exposure.”
The only problem is, while our income and rights have been eroded by usurious contracts, “work for hire” terms, crowdsourcing, and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, our corporate employers have enjoyed tax loopholes, courts that rule in favor of the big business each and every time, and the ability to cloak themselves in the myth that’s “what’s good for big business is good for America.”
Yes, the internet has made it rough for media companies, but the first place they look to make up the shortfall is not by replacing the management who totally misjudged how to make money in the new economy, but by bullying the freelancers into doing more for less, and giving up the rights to our creations.
Here’s what happens when you lose the right to collectively bargain. Whenever freelancers band together to try to set rights and rates, we are legally stopped by the provisions of Sherman Anti-Trust Act. They call it “price-fixing.”
On the other hand, when the cable monopoly Comcast and NBC want to merge, they get the red carpet treatment. Wait, isn’t Comcast already a monopoly? Sure, but that’s okay because it’s good for (big) business.
When Rupert Murdoch wants to own TV stations and newspapers in the same area, formerly prohibited by a law outlawing media monopolies in a given market, it’s no problem….we just change the law that prohibited the practice, so that now he can own whatever he wants!
So we individual content producers have not been able to collectively bargain, and not to put too fine a point on it, but our day rates haven’t gone up much at all from the late 70’s, and our claims to copyright have all but eroded. But not to worry, because it’s good for business, and what’s good for business, um, is good for a very very small group of Americans at the top of the economic food chain.
There’s no doubt that our entitlement programs are bloated and that unions can and do protect some incompetent and underperforming members in jobs they shouldn’t have.
But that is far less draining on the deficit than corporate tax dodges and the extension of Bush era taxbreaks. You’d be amazed at how many of the American corporations (who just won the ability to donate unlimited funds, anonymously, to politicians who toe their corporate line thanks to the Federal Election Commission vs. Citizens United Supreme Court ruling) are headquartered offshore and don’t pay any taxes at all.
Well, enough, this is supposed to be a photography blog. I’m going back to talking about lenses, cameras, and neato gear. It’s much better for the blood pressure….