One wrinkle about being Biz Rep of the Animation Guild: you get a bird's eye view of how some of the more grizzled veterans of the animation industry are doing.
Just now, it's a mixed bag.
Some of the older artists are trucking right along, fortunate enough to be plugged into a studio (or sometimes two) that use them regularly and put them on staff when there's an opening. And some have found that jobs have gotten scarcer, either because the people they've networked with are retired or not getting much work themselves, or they've ticked off some executive and so are on a naughty list (and good luck getting anybody in the studio hierarchy to admit that list exists.) ...
In the last several weeks, I've encountered a bunch of folks with looong resumes who are out of work. With some of them, it's a case of bad timing and bad luck. With others, it's a matter of carrying reputations of complaining ... or back-stabbing ... or being generally irritating in the workplace. (Playing well with others in the cartoon sandbox is more important than ever.)
I counsel a lot of artists about how to play the politics at their particular studio, and my advice is more often than not similar at the Animation Guild's far-flung venues:
1) Don't tell your supervisor "I told you so" after you turn out to be right ... and he is wrong.
2) Pick the issues over which you want to go to the mat. (And remember: the less you go to the mat, the more effective you'll be when you finally do.)
3) Be positive rather than negative. Be happy to help out when asked. Strive to be kind.
4) Know what the legal and contractual rules are. When they're being violated, call me and we can discuss different remedial strategies. (They usually don't include the business representative coming in with guns blazing.)
5) If you have a shitty workplace personality (like for instance you don't suffer fools gladly, you get sarcastic too often, or bad-mouth studio bozos a lot when they're out of the room) build a fake, happy-face personality on top of it. This will serve you well over time.
6) As much as possible, stow your ego at home in the garage. Nobody much cares what your problems are. They are focused on theirs.
7) When in conflict with supervisors or studio brass and things look dire (meaning: you seem to get the stink eye a lot) seriously consider rolling onto your back with all four paws in the air and exposing your throat. (This is yet another metaphor for apologizing and "eating humble pie", even when you truly believe there is no valid reason to do so. You've parked your ego in the garage, remember?)
Now, please don't think I believe that the current workplace environment is the way things should be, because I don't. But I've kicked around enough ... and been kicked around enough ... to recognize reality when it smacks me in the face. Artists need to have good people skills and skill skills because even when they work for long periods of time, even when they've played the work game truly and well, all of them battle a strong current running the other way:
... More than three in five U.S. workers in their 50s and 60s plan on working past 65 -- and 47% of that group say they'll do so because they'll need the money or health benefits, according to a 2011 study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. ...
Happily, there is a bit of good news for long-term TAG members. If they've worked under union contracts, and if they've participated in the TAG 401(k) plan (and a couple of thousand people have), they are in a relatively strong position to embark on retirement. As one thirty-five year vet told me last week:
"I'll be sixty in a few months. I really want to keep working. But it's nice to know I've got the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan to tap into if I don't find the next job." ...
Life never goes quite the way you think it will. So it's good to have a Plan B, C and D to go along with Plan A.