Not from me, but a TAG member.
At one of our fine, signator studios this week, an artist I've known for years flagged me in the hall and complained about the following:
"I ragged on some people here about working unpaid overtime. It's been going on, and I told them 'You're f*cking me, you're pulling down every person who works here and it's got to stop.
"There are cleanup artists who come in for a few weeks at a time and then get laid off again. And they all do free o.t. They figure it will help them get rehired the next time ..."
I told the guy that what is happening at his studio has happened -- at one time or another -- at every studio I've ever visited. A zealous production manager says, "We gotta ship this act tomorrow! We need you to help out! (And by the way, we don't have any money in the budget for overtime) ...".
And so everyone hops to.
I offered to swing by the studio late at night and catch people at their desks. "But the problem with that," I said, "is if they lie to me about what they're doing there, tell me 'I'm making up time,' or 'I'm being paid,' that's the end of it. And most people lie."
There followed a general bitch-fest about the unemployment in the teevee animation business, the overall economy, and the jolly corporatist state in which we live. I moved on to talk to the shop steward who reported that no, he hadn't heard of anyone working unpaid overtime.
"But then, they wouldn't tell me. They know I'm shop steward. And when I come around and ask if they have problems, they always say everything's fine. Figures."
Over the years I've known plenty of artists who've bucked peer and management pressure to do layout, background, storyboard or cleanup work for free, and lived to tell the tale. None of them were blackballed. But in this era of economic anxiety, there's plenty of nervousness, and lots of employees are caving in.
I totally get employees' compulsions to "do whatever it takes" to extend their jobs. Times, after all, are rugged. I also get why studios are tempted to exploit the situation. If there's free money lying on the ground (which is what free work amounts to) why not pick it up?