TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito had a few words to say about labor unions, and workers' participation therein on his blog:
...[N]ext Tuesday is the meeting for nomination of new officers for the union. They will serve a three year term. I hear a lot of top jobs may be up for grabs. Even if you usually can't be bothered going to these, THIS is always the most important General Membership meeting you can ever attend.
This is your chance to have a direct impact on how decisions are made by the local. The people you nominate will have the power over the financial health of LA animation, which has ramifications for the rest of the country. A bad or militant board can provoke major ruptures within the business which could bring on a strike or drive work out of town. A lazy or apathetic board can let the relevancy of the union movement fall away from the newer members and could cause management to ignore your rights under our contract.
Ignoring this meeting is like lending your wallet to a stranger.
A grizzled old union rep told me years ago: "People stopped going to guild meetings when television came in. Who wants to go out on week-night when they can sit in a lounger and watch the tube?"...
Sometimes that's been true, but sometimes not. I've known for a long time one of the most important jobs that I do as Business Representative is getting out into the work place and talking to people: trouble shooting problems in the workplace, clearing up confusion about the health and pension plan, and just plain old communicating.
If member don't attend meetings, then we work to bring meetings to them.
Even so, we've had a string of quality artists and technicians show up to participate, and over the past decade and a half, TAG has been blessed with some quality officers. Sito again:
Under my presidency (1992-2001) we organized big studios like Dreamworks, brought more CGI artists into the union than any other such organization in the world, built a multi-employer 401k plan and helped create complete medical coverage for same-sex couples.
Under current President Koch retraining and user groups for traditional artists to CGI accelerated, big studios like Starz Media/Film Roman now enjoy union benefits ... and a new 839 headquarters is being built. We are the fifth largest union in the Hollywood backstage...
Allow me to elaborate a little. Sito pushed hard for 401(k) benefits at Disney after our proposal was rejected in negotiations. Today TAG is the only IA union in the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan that has a 401(k) Plan on top of a Defined Benefit Plan and an Individual Account Plan. For individual members in the middle of their careers, that is a huge deal.
And Tom was the first IA officer to publically push for same-sex couples getting health coverage. Another huge deal.
And President Koch has toughed it out with employers at every contract negotiation, defended employees' rights inside the studios, pushed our organizing efforts. Because of his advociacy, we will next year move into a new building in Burbank, closer and more accessible to the studios.
None of these things happen without the participation of members being active and running for office. As El Sito says:
A corporation is not a democracy. A company is not a democracy. Our union is us, artists united. We are a democracy. For all our sakes and our families, please participate.