A constant reader (I assume) writes below:
... I am at Sony Imageworks. I have been there for many years now. Recently there have been a lot of changes, old management teams being replaced by newer ones. This is the norm right? Every few years new blood, new brooms, new styles. The style of this group seems to be slash/burn. Seasoned vet's getting tossed on their @sses to be replaced by a younger (cheaper) crowd. Benefits are being cut to the bone. Severance pay - cut out completely and we are being asked to sign new contracts that strip away our current health coverage to a shadow of what it is now. A few years back the union tried to come in, but back then Sony's benefits were better than what the union offered so many of us voted against it. WE WERE WRONG! ...
And Yours Truly responds:
Ah yes, I remember it as though it were yesterday. There we were, the IA reps and the Animation Guild officers (President Koch and I) in the Imageworks theater, rolling out the IATSE contract, Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan and TAG 401(k) Plan (without a match) that we hoped to sell to the Imageworkers.
The production hires were receptive, but the permanent employees weren't buying. In fact, many bristled with anger that their generous Sony benefits were being threatened by this new deal, and wanted no part of it. Campaigned against it.
And the day of the vote, the permanent employees ... with their production-hire allies ... handed the IA (and TAG) their heads. The vote was something like 289 NAYs, and 27 AYEs.
We (the unionists) skulked out of there with our tails between our legs. An IA rep asked me later: "So, what do you think we should have done?" I replied: "Cancel the vote before it was held."
Of course, the union side (my side) was not about to do that. Couldn't do that. They had to roll the dice. Even though I knew ... and several of them knew ... we were headed for the rocks. I had talked to enough employees and ex-employees to know that beyond much doubt, even as I told them:
"You think this sweet deal you've got with ImageWorks is going to go on and on. The benefits, the pay, it's all permanent. Except it's not. The company can revoke them whenever it wants."
Let me state right here that I don't begrudge anybody for buying the company line and voting to keep the IA out. It's always comfortable and easy to go with the status quo, particularly when you are in Fat City. Your head says, "Maybe this won't last..." but your heart yells:
"Heey now! This is the way it was meant to be! And this is the way it will be FOR-EVER!"
But it isn't, actually. It never is. Everything --the good, the bad, and the indifferent -- is temporary. We know this intellectually, but emotionally we resist the sad reality. And I most likely would have done the same thing the ImageWorks folks did all those years ago, when Tim Sarnoff ladled out the b.s. and employees lapped it up. (Tim, like many of the employees, is gone now. He's off in France, building a new career and empire.)
Face it. It's hard to resist the profit-sharing, rich 401(k) plan, and nice salary, and go into a voting booth and gamble on something else.
But here's the deal with Imageworks now. I would love to organize the place. Problem is, I can get into the studio, but new management watches me like a bird of prey, so there is no way I'm going to chat up the non-union crew. What would be more useful is for ImageWorkers who want to change things to call me at 818-845-7500. We can set up some meetings, do lunch, chat on the phone or whatever. Work to get something happening down there in Culver City.
Because the past is dead and gone. And an organizational drive begins with the first Representation Card.