On Unions and Associations

In class on Monday the issue of unions was brought up and I made a comment that freelancers cannot organize or join unions. A few eyebrows went up and, last night, Ashley Hieb sent me a link to the Freelancers Union – which on the surface certainly appears to be a union.

A legal “union” is a collective bargaining unit organized by workers within an industry. They work in unison on issues regarding working conditions – pay, benefits, safety, etc.

The Freelancers Union is actual a trade association – it is a collection of people within various industries that have similar needs. While they appear to negotiate for benefits, what they’re actually doing is building group discount packages. They don’t, and can’t, negotiate pay on behalf of their members – that would be illegal in the United States.

The National Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists are examples of industry-centric trade associations. They work for the benefit of the industry but don’t get involved in individual bargaining agreements.

Hope that clears that up.

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