Saturday, April 22, 2006
Some years back, when hand-drawn animation was peaking, an animator called me and said: "I met with two execs yesterday about getting a raise. They told me I was making as much as anyone here. Any way you can tell me if that's true?" I said that there was, and pulled out a fat printout of all animation employees salaries sent to the Guild by the Motion Picture Pension and Health Plan each quarter. Scanning rows of figures, I informed him that he wasn't even in the top 50% of wages for his classification. After some heavy breathing, he muttered thanks and hung up. Two days later he called again, this time informing me: "I told the executives what you told me. They got agitated, asked where I got the info. I said that you gave it to me." "Oh great." "They got really angry. Said you shouldn't have given it to me. Said it was unethical." "Fine. Did you point out to them that they lied about how much everybody else is making compared to you?" "Ahm, no. I got kind of flustered, they were beating me up so bad about getting wage information from you." "They give you a raise?" Long pause. "No." A couple of years before this conversation, I got into a beef with a Vice President at a large animation studio. The beef was that the studio's many personal service contracts (then around 70% of the entire staff) required employees holding the contracts to keep everything in the contract confidential. And the ONLY thing different in each contract was...(drum roll)...individual salaries. This triggered the following dialogue between me and the Veep: Me: You like, know that the reason the confidentiality clause is in there is to keep people from telling other people what they make, right? Veep: (After hemming and hawing) Yeah, pretty much. Me: You know there's a state law prohibiting a company from stopping an employee from sharing wage information? Veep: Hm hm. But the lawyers tell me as long as nobody takes us to court about it, we're okay. Me: (thoughtful pause) So why don't we just agree that, regarding salaries, the company will take the confidentiality clause out? Veep: I don't think we want to do that. Eventually the company DID take the clause out (after more whining about it from me); soon thereafter we published the following item in the Guild's newsletter: Section 232(a) of the California Labor Code prohibits an employer from requiring as a condition of employment that any employee refrain from disclosing the amount of their wages. Section 232(b) prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to sign a waiver of their right to disclose their wages. Section 232(c) prohibits an employer from discharging, formally disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee who discloses the amount of their wages. When young, most people are taught that it's impolite to ask or tell other people what you make. Maybe that's dandy etiquette, but think a minute. If everyone is ignorant about what the guy in the next cubicle or office is making, the only entity that's helped by that ignorance is your employer, who knows what everyone is making. The language of the state code can be found here.
Posted by Steve Hulett at 1:04 AM