There's bits of ... how to put this? ... misinformation bandied about in the comments section of the Persuasion post below.
So that you don't have to venture down to an old post, we bring the discussion here. The bold/italics lines are from anonymous commenters, and the responses are from your ever-helpful union leaders:
In order to have "retiree health benefits" would you not have to be employed at a, or several, union shops solidly for 15 years?
No, the 15 qualified years required for retiree health benefits do not have to be continuous (which is what I think you mean by 'solidly'). From the time you start working, until you retire, you need a total of 15 'qualified' years to earn retiree health benefits through the union plan. We'll explain 'qualified years' below.It is nice to see that the pension money, being deposited because of my work, will be going to people other than myself.
This is half false, half exaggeration. First, remember that there are two distinct union pensions which are automatic (i.e., you're automatically a part of both of them when you're working at a union studio). One is the Individual Account Plan. Every penny that goes into your IAP will only benefit you. This fund is not co-mingled with anyone else's IAP. Contributions to your IAP, made by your union employer, and the interest earned on your invested funds, stays in your account, which you receive at retirement. This plan vests after you've worked 400 hours, so it is not going to anyone else.
The second pension is the Defined Benefit Pension Plan. This requires five qualified years to vest. Once you're vested, you've earned a monthly stipend that begins paying out at retirement. The funds contributed on your behalf to the DBP go into a larger pool. Here it's possible to work several years at union studios but never vest, and so in a sense your DBP contributions could benefit other people if your union career is sufficiently brief. But you would still have your IAP waiting for you, along with any contributions you've made to the 401(k).
The problem is that almost every year, for nearly everyone employed there, there would be a hiatus for about one month. That would then negate the entire year for me, although money still went to the pension regardless.
I have been a member of the union since 1998. How many years do I have towards the pension? One.
Which means you only worked 400 or more hours in one calendar year. The pension plans, and the qualifying for the retiree health plan, are based on 'qualified years.' A qualified year is any calendar year in which somebody works 400 hours or more at a union studio. Someone working 40-hour work weeks would have a 'qualified year' after two and a half months. So if you worked at a union studio for 11 months out of each year (or even as little as three months out of the year) since 1998, you would now have 13 qualified years.
Management's incentive is to keep you employed to the bare minimum of their requirements to deposit funds toward the union. That keeps their bottom line in check and their stock happier. If they can lay you off or keep you temporary, they will because they pay less to TAG.
Cute, but not how things work. The studios do not pay a red cent to TAG. Your initiation fee and your dues are the only money that goes to The Animation Guild. The initiation fee is waived for people at a studio that goes union while they're working there. The dues range between $69 and about $100/quarter, depending on your job classification.
The studios DO pay into the Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan on your behalf. For every single hour you work, they pay into a trust fund for your two pensions and for your health benefits. It doesn't matter if they employ you for 3 months a year on an 'at-will' basis, or whether they have you on a 7-year contract--they pay into the MPIHPP for every single hour you work for them.
For TAG, the incentive is to organize as many people at corporations as possible in order to maximize the corporate contributions to the health and pension funds to keep them solvent over the long term. In order to protect those funds, it is also in their interest to keep member requirements high enough so as to not jeopardize the funds.
This is also false. I'm beginning to think there's a management troll posting on our blog to try to discourage certain animators at a certain studio from going union.
The union has NO -- as in "zero" -- access to the funds that go into the health and pension plans. The MPIHPP is a trust fund that operates under layers of federal regulations, and is solely for the benefit of members. And the union has no incentive to keep qualifying requirements high. In fact, TAG has worked to do the opposite.
When the Defined Benefit Pension was first started, it required 10 qualified years to vest. Then the union got it reduced to 5 qualified years. When the Individual Account Plan was started up, it was set up with a FIVE year vesting time. Now, it takes ONE year (400 hours) to vest.
The health plan used to require about a year of work to qualify for benefits. Now the plan becomes active in half that time.
TAG fought for and won a 401(k) plan for its members fifteen years ago. It initially had a 6 month wait before one could join the 401(k). Then it was reduced to three months. Now it's virtually immediate.
So the history of TAG has been to push for better benefits, and more easily accessed benefits.
Worked for three years straight at a union studio and because of how the time broke up, I only had one year count. Have worked on other union projects for the greater part of a particular year but none of that has counted.
This is mathematically not possible. As stated above, a qualified year is simply 400 hours worked in a calendar year. It doesn't even need to be continuous, so if you worked all of January, half of July, and all of October, you'd have a qualified year.
A couple of examples to make this more clear. You started working 40 hours per week at a union studio on Oct. 1, 2007, and worked steadily until March 30, 2009. You worked 18 straight months. How many 'qualified years' do you have? Three, because you had at least 400 hours in each of those three years.
Example two: you started working 40-hour weeks on Nov. 1, 2007, and worked straight through until Feb. 28, 2009. In this example you have one qualified year, since in both 2007 and 2009 you were just under the necessary 400 hours. However, if you were working at least 50 hours per week in both 2007 and 2009, you would again have three qualified years.
Anyone who thinks they have earned qualified years that aren't being credited, contact the union office ASAP. We'll help you sort it out. And this is why we encourage members to keep their paystubs, and check the summary statement they get yearly from the MPIHPP.