I drove an ambulance right after college. I know…I know… it’s hard to believe, but put your snacks back in your mouth, close your gaping jaw, and believe it! I was 21. I worked for the Sacramento Ambulance Company. And I wheeled gurneys, held together broken bones, and transported many an ill person to the hospital.
A few months in, I was approached by a union rep from the IAEP (the union that supports EMTs and Paramedics) who asked if I wanted to join. As a very strong-willed, independent, and clueless 21-year old, I said to the rep, “no thank you, I don’t know what the union is, nor what it does, and I’m not a joiner.” To his credit, he tried to explain it to me, but I still refused.
Fast-forward to 2005ish when I’m a green and eager voice over actor, still with no plans to join a union. As fate would have it, my very first talent agent sent me only union auditions, and before I could utter the phrase “not a joiner”, I was a member of SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union (SAG and AFTRA were separate unions at the time, but I joined both).
I wish I could have told my willful 21-year old self that a union provides benefits, community, and support for jobs that are notoriously stressful and unstable. And that my talent wouldn’t be taken advantage of thanks to the backing and enforcement of a very large and powerful institution. Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve been eyeing the union the moment I loaded my first gurney into my rig.
by Clay Robeson October 1, 2020
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