Friday, March 03, 2006

"I'm a Business Person Now..."

Yesterday at Cartoon Network, a designer asked me: “Why isn’t blank studio willing to sign a contract? I mean, the owner is a long-time Guild member, isn’t she? An enthusiastic member.” I told him yes. I also told him that, in my experience, Guild membership, even active Guild membership, is no guarantee that an employee-artist will stay gung-ho for labor agreements when she (or he) becomes an owner-artist. As I said to the perplexed designer: “It’s all about the money. Studio owners want to keep as much of it as they can. Guild benefits cost her more. If her employees want Guild wages and benefits, they’re going to have to sign rep cards and push for them.” It's much like the James Stewart-Hank Fonda Western "Cheyenne Social Club." When saddle tramp Stewart inherits a House of Prostitution, he immediately declares himself to be a Republican. His saddle-tramp buddy Fonda asks him why he's changed, especially after being a Democrat his whole life. Stewart looks at him and says, "I'm a man of prop-erty now."


Steve Hulett said...

Another example of this is Phil Roman. Phil was a staunch unionist in his younger employee days. When Phil worked at Bill Melendez Productions as a director, a checker there told me that Phil was always strong for keeping the work there.

But then Phil founded his own studio. And...whattayaknow? His priorities changed.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth do you refer to this particular unorganized studio as "[Blank]"?

There's no way that they would know and be able to take retaliation on the anonymous person who asked you that speculative question(besides, it doesn't sound from your wording that that person even worked there)...but isn't it far from a "secret" what places are union, and which are not? I just see no reason for this at all--I'm sure you don't mean it this way, but it comes off as protecting the non-union shop--and protecting them from what I can't understand, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but if you're considering paranoia, you might easily have left out the information that the person who asked you was A) a designer
B)a female, and
C) worked at Cartoon Network! What was the only thing left out--the name of the place they were asking about! And this person asking doesn't even work there!

I'm not trying to argue just for the sake of arguing, I'm honestly discussing, and I don't mean any personal offense--but I still say: this makes NO sense.
It's the (whew!)UN-named studio that is NON-UNION in this example. Let's have some cojones and at least name them. Would you still be paranoid if the anecdote was phrased, "a union artist asked me the other day--"etc.? If you changed her sex, didn't mention which union shop she worked in--how could her paranoia be justified on any planet?

BTW--speaking of paranoia--isn't that the LAST thing we want to encourage in both membership and non-union working animators--instead of bowing to it in the most far-flung sense? Isn't this the very attitude you write on in the Pegboard every single month--that "you can bitch about Non Union Prod.Inc. all you want, but if you guys don't have the courage to sign a rep card, we can't do anything about them?" But now in this harmless anecdote you say you're protecting a union artist from possibly being not hired(I guess) sometime in the non-union future by that particular union shop, all because she asked you (rhetorically, it seems to me) why it is that they aren't union(as if you would personally know--frankly, all you can do is speculate; only the woman spoken about could really answer that--and should)?

Kevin Koch said...

You're correct that we don't want to encourage paranoia, but the fact is it exists. Steve was just posting in a way meant to make this person feel safe. Could he have done it differently? Sure, but realize that a lot of these posts are written on the fly, and not meant as our final word on whatever subject. Neither of us are writing, and rewriting, and then running this stuff by an editor before posting.

More importantly, the goal of this particular story wasn't to embarass or single out a particular studio, but to make the more general point that individuals often become more self-serving when they're the ones writing the checks. Maybe naming that studio would have made the point better, or maybe it would have taken away from the point, but the issue Steve was addressing is just as clear either way.

Anonymous said...

Yes, well, heaven forfend that a formerly gung-ho union member be "embarrassed" by now running a NON-union shop; as you say, that wasn't the goal here.

So I guess my point is--why not?

I'd like to put it to Tom Sito, who was fond of writing every single month in the Pegboard about the sweat, tears and lost career advancement/wages that Babbit and others paid for the existence of our present union, challenging members to remember the enormous sacrifices our forefathers went though to make it happen: how does one reconcile that paradigm with seeing no need to "embarrass" a non-union shop by name. With that attitude, why even bring the subject up? I guess the mixed messages simply confuse me.

Anonymous said...

I don't care about "embarassing" anyone running a non-union shop. I desired to protect the person who talked to me NOT KNOWING that I was going to publish a version of what was said. *That* was my purpose.

Phil Roman ran a non-union place; Darrel Van Citters now runs one, as do a couple of other union artists. Others have have operated non-signator studios in the past and will in the future. At the end of the day, it's our responsibility to organize them

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