Creative Union

Bloodtype's picture

Further to my comments and others in other forums, does anyone think there would be any mileage in starting a graphic designers' or more general creatives' union?

Here is a link to an old discussion on Flickr with some interesting comments:

oldnick's picture

If you could offer members discounts on software, supplies, insurance, etc., you might find some takers. However, if the purpose is to have some uniform standards of professional practice and pricing, you will always have to contend with the zit-faced kid with a few pieces of "creative" software in his parents' basement--or even a professional in a lower-cost-of-living country--underbidding you...

dezcom's picture

Don't professional organizations like AIGA and all of the international groups offer this sort of thing? A union per se conjures up a bargaining position which would certainly be impractical. Then there would be the certification fiasco to endure. It just seems too far from reality. Collusion on price fixing is not legal at least in the USA. What would a member get that would more than compensate for the dues?

blank's picture

Collusion on price fixing is not legal at least in the USA.

Unions and some professional organizations are not bound by the same antitrust rules that businesses and individuals are. This is why, for example, the Graphic Artists Guild can do a survey of hourly rates for design services and publish it.

I can’t see how AIGA can even compare to a real union. For starters, how many unions not only demand membership dues but then also demand more money every time you want to show up at a meeting?

aluminum's picture

An industry Union wouldn't be of much use in our industry, but there's been talk off and on throughout the history on doing something akin to what the AIA does in terms of supporting official licensing.

Granted, Architects aren't exactly thriving these days, so maybe that's a bad idea too.

AdamC's picture

With the way that being a designer works, I'm not sure how you would get a union running. I think having one around is a good idea though because it can help give some leverage to the workers when dealing with bosses, but other than that...

dezcom's picture

"leverage to the workers when dealing with bosses"

How would that work, Hmm;

Prick boss: Smithers, I want this book layed out by first morning light so either pray for an eclipse or start burning the midnight oil!

Smithers: I am going to call the Design Union Steward and protest mistreatment!

Prick boss: Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out and tell all those young design graduates waiting up front with baited breath for their first job to come on by. Oh, and tell that Steward guy his ass is fired too!

russellm's picture

You could go and work as an in-house designer in a large unionized company or a government agency. But, then you'd run the risk of finding yourself in management.


JamesM's picture

> it can help give some leverage to the workers

Unions are generally most effective in occupations where employers hire a large workforce of union members -- places like factories, hospitals, schools, etc. Employers know that if the union goes on strike they'll lose a large workforce that may be difficult to replace.

There aren't many companies that have a huge staff of graphic designers. If a company has two graphic designers on staff, the threat of a strike won't mean much. If they go on strike they'll just be replaced.

Also unions generally specify wages, which may be easy to do in a factory where you're paid by the hour, or a school where you get a yearly salary, but many (perhaps most) designers are self-employed and price each job individually based on a variety of factors.

I just don't see a union happening.

Diner's picture

At one point a while back I had a concept to start a font foundry with a union theme but after running it past a few midwesterners, the idea was quickly dismissed. Unions aren't a creative theme to hang a hat on, they are very serious business here in the midwest and still very much active.

I agree fully with James that there isn't really any advantage to unionizing the font industry because we're all independent contractors as it were not unified under any single organization that we work for or service . . .

russellm's picture

Maybe a good old fashioned guild.


Si_Daniels's picture

At least the "ON STRIKE" signs will be well kerned :-)

its_betty's picture

There is Freelancers Union which offers group health insurance (in some states), retirement plans, discounts, and lobbies government for better laws regarding freelancers.

But they don't get involved in pricing or specific agreements between freelancers and clients.

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