Sunday, March 05, 2006
Next week The Animation Guild begins the tri-annual ritual of contract negotiations. Here is my take on the negotiations in which I've taken part over the past decade and a half:
Contract Talks 1991:
In our first caucus, an IA rep takes a look at the Guild's lengthy list of demands and explodes: "What do you think you're DOING?! You got way too many proposals!" Hulett, young, naive fool that he is, stammers: "But...but that's what a union is supposed to do, isn't it? Find out what members want and try to get those things for them?"
The rep shouts that the union is supposed to get in and out without damage, that's the goal. In coming years, I come to see what he means, but still think you have to strike a balance. In the same negotiations, the Warner Bros. Labor Relations representative gets mad at a proposal (don't ask me to remember what the hell it was), slams down his briefcase, and storms out. Later I realize this is part of the theatrics that takes place at almost EVERY negotiation...
Contract Talks 1994:
New Guild President Tom Sito's first CBA negotiation. Disney Animation is in the middle of an astounding run of hits, and Tom goes around to lead animators and directors at Mouse House to see if they want to pursue a job action in an attempt to get residuals. Everybody's interested, but nobody wants to stick his (her) neck out.
Studios, led by Disney, try for some major rollbacks. Sito screams and yells in negotiations, kicks over a chair, storms out. Good shock value. The Guild ultimately holds its own. No give-backs.
Contract Talks 1997:
New IA President Tom Short's first participation in Guild Negotiations. Three days of talks (as I remember). Sito again yells and walks out, but with less impact this time. Retiree Ed Freidman, who started in business in 1932, participates in talks to help defend retiree benefits. Sito wags finger at studio reps and denounces them for trying to get rollbacks even as they drive their BMWs, Mercedeses and Lexi. Freidman takes Tom aside and whispers: "Tom, I drive a Lexus..."
Contract Talks 2000:
In the midst of industry downsizing, animation writers dominate the negotiation committee and fight hard over nine months of off-and-on talks for writers' residuals. (This is probably the longest contract negotiation the guild has ever had.) Producers erect a solid concrete wall against the proposals, keep saying "No way..."
In the ninth month of talks, IA President Short comes in to move the ball over the goal line. Screaming match erupts in caucus room between animation writers and IA President Short. (Writers don't like his attitude.) While the yelling goes on, brave Guild rep (moi) retreats to a Xerox room to make copies of new proposals. Talks conclude with agreement for improvements for freelance writers that for the majority of the committee falls far short of committe's goals. Committee recommends a "No" vote on contract, but business rep (moi again) campaigns for "yes" vote. Contract ultimately passes.
Contract Talks 2003:
New Guild president Kevin Koch participates in the shortest contract talks I've been involved in, as the whole negotiation takes place in one day. President Tom Short again participates, Guild has all animation crafts -- not just writers -- in the room this time. Small but significant gains made, some horse trading, and committee unanimously votes to recommend. Contract approved overwhelmingly by the membership.
And we'll see what happens THIS year...
Posted by Steve Hulett at 4:06 PM