Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes, the good guys win

This afternoon, the IATSE and Reveille Productions announced an agreement to unionize the reality show The Biggest Loser. This agreement will bring the largest remaining non-IA reality show under the seamless cloak of IATSE contractual benefits and protections.

Production on the hit NBC show shut down temporarily Monday, Nov. 8, after members of the production crew voted to support the IA. Intensive talks took place during the week and over the weekend and the new agreement was ratified by the crew in a meeting this morning. As previously reported, AFTRA and DGA already have agreements with the production.

Crew and members of other IA locals have been picketing at the Calabasas location of the show since Tuesday, although production continued during the picketing.

Mike Miller, Vice President of the IA and Director of its Motion Picture and Television Division said, “This agreement is a positive step forward for the crew of The Biggest Loser, especially in the area of health benefits. We are pleased to see them go back to work.” Lee Rierson, Managing Director and Head of Business and Operations for Reveille said, “We have reached a fair agreement with the IA while managing to avoid significant disruption to the production, and are happy to see our entire crew working together again.”

This was a relatively short but intense walkout, brought about by workers who had the courage to vote with their feet in opposition to working conditions at one of the most profitable reality series that had obstinately refused to provide benefits to its below-the-line crew. Congratulations to everyone -- on both sides of the table -- who made it possible.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen, and I'm happy for the crew for standing tall.

Anonymous said...

Should a situation arise in animation that would cause such unrest....would the Guild be able to picket?

Anonymous said...

Yes, TAG could organize a picket in this kind of situation.

The Guild can't picket a union studio while a valid contract is in force (just like a union studio can't lock out workers when a valid contract is in force).

Anonymous said...

Why haven't we gone on strike for the countless hours of unpaid overtime?

Anonymous said...

You can't strike over something that you won't admit to. All anyone has to do is turn in an honest timecard. If the studio won't pay it, the union files a grievance, which they will win every time. Others have done it, and kept working. Why don't you try it?

Anonymous said...

Because I'll never work again.

Anonymous said...

So you live in fear, and won't stand up for yourself, but you want a few thousand other animation professionals to walk off their jobs for you? Gotcha.

Anonymous said...

Um, I thought the whole idea behind a 'union' was that I wouldn't have to stand alone.

Jeff Massie said...

You can't stand up with your Guild if you won't stand up for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Nice slice of meaningless rhetoric.
If the guild had the balls to organize a strike, I would join in. But if the guild had balls we wouldn't have this problem in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"If the guild had the balls to organize a strike, I would join in."

Really? You'd join in, regardless of what the strike was about? Sounds like meaningless rhetoric to me. (Ask anyone who went out the two times this union HAS struck.)

"But if the guild had balls we wouldn't have this problem in the first place."

You are the Guild*. If you had balls, the Guild would have balls.

*assuming you're a member, and not just another troll

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that as a member I have the power to initiate a strike. If I find out that's the case I'll be happy to.
Otherwise I need my union leaders to listen to the cries for help that have been echoing for years now and do something about it like organize a massive walk-out and strike the way SAG or the Writer's Guild would.
Can you imagine that? All of the FOX shows shut down, Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon all suddenly empty of artists. It would be glorious.

Kevin Koch said...

Here's some sad facts for you. The vast majority of union studios pay overtime, at least the vast majority of the time. At most studios there are only sporatic overtime abuses, and TAG has been effective in rectifying these cases when the affected individuals notified the union.

There ARE a couple of places that have a pattern of significant overtime abuse. Steve Hulett has met with these crews and talked with them on both a group and individual basis. He's asked them, repeatedly, what they want him to do, and encouraged them to act as a group, which would protect them. The first step would be a group grievance. That is, a grievance that ALL, or at least most, of the affected artists put their names. That grievance would be a slam dunk, because the evidence would be overwhelming. No one would even have to walk out, and the shows themselves wouldn't even be disrupted. To date those affected artists haven't been willing to take that step.

The idea that these same groups of artists would walk out and strike, when they won't sign a grievance, is ludicrous to me. It is empty rhetoric.

Actually, it's worse than empty rhetoric. It is a transfer of personal and group responsibility to "the union," as if "the union" is everyone else except the affected artists.

The union was formed when the majority of workers at several studios acted together. It wasn't an outside entity that came in and strong-armed the studios. It didn't happen at Disney because artists at Warners struck for them. It happened at Disney because the Disney artists stood up for themselves, and they became the union. It happened at Warners because the Warners artists stood up for themselves, and they became the union.

I know what I'm saying will piss some people off, and I know that a lot of animation artists would prefer to have solutions without any risk or messiness to themselves. But, having stood up for myself whenever I was being crapped on (and sometimes taking my lumps for it), and having seen plenty of people take the chance to stand up for themselves, I have to call it like I see it.

Imagine what would happen at studio X if everyone there heard that the artists at studio Y stood tall and acted together for a grievance? It would spread like wildfire. Suddenly, all the empty threats that whole crews would be replaced would go up in smoke. Fantasizing about an industry-wide strike isn't going to make that happen.

Think globally, act locally. Live free or die. Those are two mottos that work for me. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

If you think overtime abuse is a rare problem then you are completely out of touch with what's going on. You're not getting reports about it because people are scared. People are scared because there's a complete lack of faith in the union and its leadership. It's a vicious cycle.

Kevin Koch said...

Please reread my post. If people are too frightened to act as a group to stand up for their rights, then there is absolutely nothing any union can do for them. The union cannot call a strike for an anonymous group that will not even officially acknowledge they are being abused. I can't make it any more plain than that.

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