Traipsing around Disney today, I came across a former Sony Pictures Imageworks vet who wanted to talk about the failed campaign to get SPI under a union contract ...
I was one of the few supporters of the union in that election. I had been at Disney for seven years before Sony, and I went around telling people that they should vote "Yes," that even though they didn't think so, they needed the pension plan, they needed the portable health plan. And after they'd been in it for seven or more years, like I had, they would see how valuable it was.
I knew which way I'd vote, but I went to one of the meetings and the union and health plan people weren't selling the bennies too well. I didn't think they were explaining a lot of the stronger points of the Pension and Health Plan.
At the end, the permanent SPI staff didn't see things the union's that way. Everybody who'd been there at Sony as permanent staff liked the profit sharing and matching 401(k) Plan contributions they got from the company. So they voted "No," and convinced most of the temporary employees to cast their ballots the same way.
And some time after that, a lot of them got laid off and they lost their high-end benefits. The people who stayed on were told they had to go to production hire status, so they got none of the goodies they'd been getting before. And a bunch of them said to me, "You know, if we had this to do over again, we'd probably vote "yes." ...
I admitted that the meetings held by the IATSE and the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan reps could have been better, way better. One of the MPIPHP reps got into a shouting match with a couple of hostile questioners and the session deteriorated from there.
I said that the informational meetings left a lot to be desired, but the vote would have cut against the IA (and TAG) if we'd had the oratorical skills of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Because it's a very human trait to believe that the good deal you're getting will go on forever, and the matched 401(k), generous health benefits and spiffy salary are permanent realities. And people wanted to believe.
So now many of Sony's (former) permanent employees, having discovered that the good deal they enjoyed was only temporary, have buyer's remorse. But it was bound to happen. When your employer isn't making much money, the good times can only roll on for so long. It's a lesson that artists in animation have learned many times before.