Monday, October 18, 2010

IBEW meets with VFX Artists

As announced by Jeff Heusser of FX Guide, the IBEW held a meeting for visual effects artists in Burbank on Saturday evening.

I joined the Guild to bring a seamless cloak of health and pension benefits as well as the strength of collective action to the visual effects artists with whom I worked. Efforts to that end are of interest to me and why I attended the meeting ...

While there weren't many visitors Saturday evening, there were certainly some heavy hitters among the people at the tables. Veteran VFX Artist and Supervisor as well as co-founder of fxguide.com and Vice Chancellor of fxphd.com, Jeff Heusser and veteran visual effects supervisor Scott Squires (to name a couple.)

* It is important to note that Scott and Jeff both attended as voices of the community and not advocates of organization. Scott's blog is read and watched by many VFX artists and Jeff's interviews for the FX Guide podcast are extremely popular and get tens of thousands of downloads regularly.

The IBEW was approached by visual effects artists interested in representation and held this meeting to announce their availability as well as gain insight into the breadth and scope of the industry and what is at stake. The IBEW took the opportunity to discuss what benefits would be offered to VFX artists who organized with them. As it turns out, they too would be able to provide health and pension benefits through the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health plans. They also talked about their strengths as a union and cited their 726k+ membership and multiple contracts with the studios as selling points to their viability.

They also opened the floor to the artist present, asking what the biggest needs were. Almost resoundingly, the artists agreed that the portability of benefits within the organic and tentative nature of employment in the industry is of the utmost importance to them. Very little was mentioned about the ridiculously long hours they are asked to work or wages being to low. Most artists there agreed that the hours are what they are, and that most artists in visual effects are paid well.

I have heartfelt respect for my counterparts at the IBEW. As much as I feel TAG is a better fit for the visual effects artist, the truth of the matter is that any representation will benefit those artists. Their need for portable, employer-funded health and pension benefits as well as the strength of collectively bargained and actively monitored contracts is long overdue.

I can't help but smart a bit from the knowledge that my lack of public exposure and outreach is the cause for an outreach to a different organization. As much as I am proud of the artists for venturing out and seeking representation on their own, I also learn that my job now needs to include much broader outreach programs and education seminars.


* This paragraph was added at the request of the named participants to clarify their intentions for visiting the meeting. I did not request their permission to use their names ahead of time and want to make clear their neutral stance as industry voices and professionals.

21 comments:

dwilson said...

It's great to hear of a movement in that direction for VFX, I've got a number of friends starting to hurt now by the industry ISN'T set up.

What studios were represented at the meeting?

Anonymous said...

Who is IBEW. Are they like IATSE?

Steven Kaplan said...

dwilson - there were no studios represented at the meeting. It was attended by artists.

Anon 5:09pm - they are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Local 40 of the IBEW was represented at the meeting. They are like IATSE in the sense that they are a labor organization.

Anonymous said...

Well, FX guys do work using electricity, after all.

I guess.

Wow.

Anonymous said...

When is the next meeting? Lots of folks at Rhythm and Hues would probably like to attend.

Anonymous said...

I did not even hear about this till now. I would like to know if there's going to be another meeting too.

Jeff said...

IBEW was approached 3 weeks ago by some visual effects artists. I found out about the meeting the week before and posted on fxguide as soon as I had the details.

I am working on a getting a podcast together for fxguide with IBEW as the guest. They said there will be another meeting in a few weeks, possibly on the West Side. I will post details on fxguide when I get them.

Jeff Heusser

Anonymous said...

TAG needs to organize a similar meeting, and invite the greater VFX community. It's a no-brainer that TAG is a better fit for a VFX union than the IBEW.

Anonymous said...

I would much rather be represented by TAG. I have been represented by a local that handled mostly stage workers, and it did poorly.

Anonymous said...

Of course our union reps didn't want any TAG members to know about this. Choices? Job protection?
VFX artists are seeking to organize or at least get a collective benefit package from a few different sources and TAG is not on that list. Even though this union has been trying like mad for years now. Oh, all those tasty union dues. VFX artists just know better.

Steven Kaplan said...

Which is why we posted it here. Good thinking Anon.

Anonymous said...

Well after the fact.

Anonymous said...

The meeting happened on Saturday and Mr. Kaplan posted about it on Monday. How is that "well after the fact"?

Anonymous said...

"VFX artists just know better"

right, you sure are better off than us union animator chumps with our higher wages, great healthcare, pension plan, 401k etc...

Anonymous said...

Well....it's AFTER THE FACT, isn't it?
NYUCK NYUK NYUK NYUK !

Anonymous said...

Any plans for one up near Pixar?

Anonymous said...

'right, you sure are better off than us union animator chumps with our higher wages, great healthcare, pension plan, 401k etc... '

Oh, that's good. Mr Priviledge.
And we have job security and get assigned jobs when new productions start up and we dont get passed over and, and and......

Steven Kaplan said...

Anon 11:15pm -

You are coming dangerously close to talking about an employment roster. Believe me when I tell you, that is *NOT* what you want in our local and for our members.

I suggest you do a little research on the "benefits" of telling employers who they can hire and crushing the meritocracy of an industry whose tools and technology evolve quickly and require its artists to do the same to stay on top of their game.

vfxsoldier said...

As a working VFX artist, I worked at a facility that had a contract with TAG. I was extremely happy with the benefits and openly talk about them on my blog.

I think the big winners are:
The guaranteed hours: If you have a 50 hour guarantee, you don't get screwed if you get put on a show that is only working 40 hour weeks.

Individual account plan and pension:
After just 2 years I amassed almost $15,000 in my iap account which was fully vested without requiring any investment from me. Most companies require you match that amount they put into a 401k.

health insurance that lasts when you are in between jobs:
For the first time ever I had vision, dental, and health insurance. There were no deductibles or premiums. Best of all, I was able to keep my health insurance for almost 2 years after I voluntarily left for a non-union vfx studio. I was able to use the fact that I didn't need employer health insurance as leverage to get paid more.

I think many vfx artists who have been in the guild feel the same.

Anonymous said...

I wish that I had known about the meeting with IBEW. I would have definitely made it a point to show up and pass the word to others.

I've been talking to some vfx artists whose #1 request and concern is to have continuing health insurance, preferably with the Motion Picture Industry Health plan.

Hope there is another meeting at some point...

Anonymous said...

Your wish is granted. Another meeting on Sunday the 7th:

http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/what-a-union-does-for-you/

See you there.

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