The comments down a couple of ratchets at "Rough Draft" have grown to be numerous and lively. Allow me to pick out a few assertions made there (some of which I have paraphrased) and make a few points, starting with:
"My employer doesn't want to go union."
Uh, employers never want to "go union." You think that Uncle Walt wanted his studio unionized, back in the day? Hell, no. How about Leon Schlesinger (who produced Looney Tunes and released through Warner Bros.)? Or Louis B. Mayer?
Nope, none of them did. It was going to cost more money, you see, and they didn't want to cough up more bucks. Totally understandable. But it wasn't their decision.
See, Congress had passed this bill (The National Labor Relations Act of 1938) making it the employees' right to decide if they wanted to be represented by a union or not. The bill is still the law of the land. So when somebody tells me, "My employer doesn't like the idea of a union around here." I reply: "Okay, but what do you want? Since it's your decision to make." ...
"This is a little mom and pop studio. They can't afford a union contract."
Funny thing. Years ago I got a version of this argument from Gabor Csupo. He went on and on about how the Animation Guild was no good, he hated it, etc. And they couldn't afford it. Oh, but he just loved the Screen Actors Guild. Thought they were great, thought they were the very model of a great organization, etc., even with the high scale rates and the residuals. He sat right there and told me so.
And I remember thinking: Like hell you do, Gabor. You're signed to the Screen Actors Guild because you need the actors they represent, and they won't work for you unless you sign a contract. Why do I think you're just putting a smiley spin on it?
Another way of putting this is: SAG had the leverage to get a contract out of Gabor, and TAG didn't. Sad, but true.)
The other point: With a few exceptions, there are no "mom and pop" studios. There are only cut-rate subcontractors performing work for one of five monster international entertainmet conglomerates. Klasky-Csupo, way back when, was mostly an arm of Viacom-Paramount-Nickelodeon. Rough Draft is a sub-set of Fox/News Corporation. And so on.
"I really don't like working for one of the big, union studios. I like the atmosphere at my non-union studio. The wages they pay are just as good as at those union places. My friend doing boards here is making above the union minimum."
Trust me on this. If a majority of animation studios weren't paying "union scale", the non-union places wouldn't be paying scale either.
Quick example: Twenty-plus years ago, when the Animation GUild was flat on its back and the animation business was in the doldrums with lots of unemployment, a non-signator studio named DIC was paying production board artists $500 per week when "union scale" was $1000.
Now, why was that, do you think?
Because it could get artists to work at $500/ week.
Then, twenty-two months later, the Animation Guild organized some places (though not DIC), the animation business took off employment-wise, and DIC -- clearly in a fit of selfless altruism -- raised salaries it paid board artists to ...
(In other words, DIC boosted salaries because it had to in order to compete.)
As I get older, I get less patient with the bullshit that passes for some kind of received wisdom, even in the comment sections of blogs. (Used to lap up the bullshit when I was younger, but now I have a more delicate stomach.) Here are a few of the basic realities I have learned:
1) There is no "Fair."
2) There is no Perfect.
3) There is only what you have the ability -- collectively or individually -- to get.
And lastly: Knowledge gives you power.
Thank you for coming, and good night.