When I was a but a lad, Robert Gibeaut was a Vice President at Walt Disney Productions, in charge of Operations. Before that, he had been the guy in charge of Editorial (Cutting, as the sign over the editorial building had it in those simpler, halcyon days.)
One day, a long-time Disney film editor was given his layoff notice. The editor became enraged at this, and stormed around the studio waving a glossy, Mouse House pamphlet that proclaimed employees at the studio were all part of the "Disney Family," all of them special, all of them part of the long Disney tradition of Family, etc.
The man yelled at his supervisor: "We're a family here! This pamphlet says so. I've been working at Disney's fifteen years!" (etc.)
The boss didn't want to deal with the tirade, and so bumped him up to the next level. The same story was yelled, and the same flyer was flapped about. The editor was again bumped along.
He finally got up to Company Chairman Card Walker, waved the pamphlet again and spit out his story. (Did I mention these were simpler times?) Card, also not wanting to deal with the guy, told him to go see Bob Gibeaut, the man in charge of operations. So the guy did. And two minutes into the waved pamphlet and angry sob story, Bob cut him off with:
"You don't believe all that 'family' crap, do you? We're running a business here."
Which pretty much ended the string of tirades.
I've told this tale before, but the core of the story always resonates with me, because old Bob was right. Companies aren't families, or charitable organizations, or there to look out for your interests. Oh, they'll tell you they are all those things, if they think it serves their interests at that particular moment, but they aren't, not really. Not ever.
Companies exist to maximize cash flow and profits for stockholders. They act in their self-interest, and if this means lying to you, cutting you off at the knees, laying you off a day before Christmas, they will do it.
Because "it's business."
I mention all this now because I've gotten a number of phone calls recently from members, some working and some not, who express disbelief that employers can be so callous and heartless, lay them off at the blink of an eye, write them up for a slight infraction, and so on and so forth.
They have, you see, heard the "We're the good guys here!" tape loop from administrators and supervisors until they start believing it, and that is always a dangerous thing.
So here (again) are a few simple rules to keep in mind when you enter employment with studios:
1) When negotiating for a job, go in with as much knowledge as possible (wage levels, work loads, political dynamics in studio, etc.) It will help you get a better deal.
2) Once hired, play well with others. Remember you're a newbie and at the bottom of the food chain.
3) Always have your antenna up, checking the studio atmosphere and political weather. It often changes daily.
4) Know what your rights are. And strive to know when it's best to exercise them.
5) Understand that one day you'll be moving on. Be at peace with that.
6) Tell yourself daily as you're brushing your teeth: "The company is not my Mommy."
And always but always remember the wisdom of Bob Gibeaut: "You don't believe all that 'family' crap, do you?"