Friday, January 09, 2009

The Times In Which We Live

I received a phone call not long ago from a studio administrator who said:

Just to give you a heads up. We're not laying anybody off, but we're asking people in some departments to go on voluntary hiatus for a month or so. We've got some production slowdowns ...

This is actually, to my mind, pretty enlightened. Anytime a studio works to keep people employed, that's a good thing.

Lots of artists and technicians in our business are scrambling right now. Freelance work, short schedules for in-house studio work, it's all part of the current landscape. Many cartoon veterans have been forced to work outside of animation because jobs that they worked for years are more scanty, so they work in in some small graphics house and pick up animation freelance on the side.

It's probably small comfort, but it seems to be the way of the nation. If you take a look at the graphic above, you'll note that the number of workers forced into part-time work has sky-rocketed:

In December, the number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (some-times referred to as involuntary part-time workers) continued to increase, reaching 8.0 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.4 million over the past 12 months. This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Kind of describes swaths of the animation industry to a tee.

Total unemployment -- which encompasses laid off workers and under-employed workers, now stands at 13.5%. Yeowch.

3 comments:

dobbs said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx--jNQYNgA

Steve Hulett said...

Interesting you should bring up the Lou Dobbs piece on foreign labor.

TAG processes thousands of O-1 visas. Most get approved because we write letters for or against based on the documentary evidence sent by the immigration attorney.

Over the years, I've had members suggest: "Write letters of disapproval!"

That would be a solution, except it wouldn't work. The INS pretty much ignores "NO" letters from labor unions, and it especially ignores them when they are deemed "frivolous." So we try to be conservative and business-like in which O-1 applicants we reject.

(I've been screamed at by the wife of one applicant who we rejected. The applicant got in despite our objection letter -- this is usually what happens with objection letters -- and worked in the States for several years.)

Last point: what Dobbs is detailing in the video I've experienced first-hand. An immigrant who was trying to get another visa had to show that there were no other people avaliable who could do the job.

We came up with a number of people who could do the job, the immigration attorney said: "Damn. I was hoping you wouldn't do that..."

In the end, you just have to play it down the middle. If an immigrant is qualified to come into the U.S., he or she is qualified. We don't pay games with the regs, since it's counter-productive. The rules are what they are, like them or not.

Most objection letters we have written have not stopped applicants from (ultimately) getting into the country.

"We just couldn't find anyone..." said...

Steve,
Can you say with absolute confidence and certainty that in every situation the O-1 applicant was more qualified than available unemployed American artists? If not, then you should be maintaining a list or directory of currently available artists with their work history and qualifications. I know you object to hiring lists on principle, but drastic times call for innovative solutions. Keeping lists could also be a potential tool for fighting testing abuses, croneyism and ageism. I realize there problem of putting "teeth" on
the lists, but that alone doesn't make them a bad idea. Nobody's skills are so unique you can't find them here.

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