The last week or two, it seems like there's been more than the usual amount of disciplinary activity -- artists getting a curt memo from a supervisor -- often the director, producer or production manager -- that goes something like this:
This is your first disciplinary notice under Article 16 of The Animation Guild's c.b.a. As we discussed with you on August 1st, you have repeatedly drawn Burlap Bear off model. You've also missed deadlines.
If there is no improvement in your overall drawing, we may take further disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.
There needs to be two written disciplinary notices before a singnatore employer can fire somebody, but employees can be let go the same day they receive notice #2.
I've seen all kinds of disciplinary notices in my time. Ones that go into long, single-spaced detail about what the problem is, how many times the employee has been talked to, and what the employee has to do to correct the problem.
Ones that are cryptic and maddeningly uninformative: "Your work is below the usual and expected standards of a board artist..." (What the hell does that mean?)
Painting with a broad brush, there are two basic types of disciplinary notices.
The first type is where the employer has an actual issue with an employee's work performance. Maybe the artist comes in late over and over again, or the artist never hits a deadline, or the artist's work never comes up to the standard his supervisor wants and expects.
The second type is political. Maybe the artist has ticked off the wrong muckety-muck. Maybe the muckety-muck wants his own close pal in the slot occupied by the artist, and so reasons are invented to get rid of the artist. (In this case, there is nothing wrong with the artist's work, but problems are invented because somebody wants the employee gone. Doesn't happen a lot ... but it happens.)
And here's the rub: It's difficult to prove type #2 because the write-up looks an awful lot like type #1.
And unless the employee can prove the employer is being discriminatory, unfair, and breaking state and federal laws in the process, his or her head will roll if the employer wants him or her gone.
Which isn't to say the animation guild can't help the employee strategize on remedies to the problem, or slow the discharge down, or secure some kind of settlement on the way out the door. Because we have. But the hard truth is:
If the employer really really wants you to be missing, when the dust settles you'll be missing.
I've learned this from thirty years of first and second-hand experience.