At tonight’s membership meeting at the Guild office, we will be discusssing endorsing proposals for the upcoming contract negotiations, as well as soliciting active members to serve on the Guild’s negotiating committee.
The following anonymous letter was slipped into our inbox last night. It’s a good starting point for discussion at this evening’s meeting.
We look forward to seeing anyone with an opinion on this letter, or on the state of our union and its future. at tonight’s meeting. Pizza and refreshments at 6:30 pm, meeting starts at 7 pm.
Dear Local 839,
For years now, it has become apparent to me, that no real support is given to the artists, who report workplace issues to the Union, such as tighter schedules, more complex storyboards and unpaid overtime. Instead, we are given only a sympathetic nod, in the Peg Board. This is not to knock The Animation Guild. We the members appreciate the 401 k plan, health plans, pension plans as well as grants and quality classes offered; but historically, the purpose of Unions has been to protect workers from being underpaid and overworked. The purpose of our Union should be to protect artists from being robbed of the thing of value they have - the ability to creatively work and get the job done, under reasonably competitive conditions.
The culture of the animation industry is very mercenary when it comes to artists and designers. We're work for hire or perma-lancers. Year after year various workplace issues get brought to the Unions attention but at the studio level, it does not seem like any changes are being exacted; and the workloads continue to increase.
There is systemic exploitation, across the studios, when storyboard artists are given a script and schedule but are expected to render layouts and animate scenes. What recourse does the artist have? If the artist honestly works eight - nine hours and calls it a day, knowing that the studios will not authorize OT (unless the production is winding down and shows have to be shipped), that artist will most likely fall behind schedule, be viewed as a non-team player (by others who choose to work ten-eleven hours) and does not get called back to the studio, after layoffs.
Local 839 is supposed to be our collective voice and offer corporate protection. Our Local 839 business representative has the ears of studio heads without repercussion and has to be well-informed with state labor laws; such as, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement in the California Department of Industrial Relations' overtime regulations.
Some may say that barking too loudly will cause studios to take the work overseas. That's been happening for years. What's the artists' recourse? If the animation union is too small in number, why not expand and include animation artists in the gaming industry? Some of these artists face similar issues but they aren't unionized and would probably appreciate some corporate protection.
Furthermore, it is difficult to understand, in the Master Collective Bargaining Agreement, why a Union would have a "No-Strike - No Lockout" clause. Not that I'm advocating a strike or lockout, but it seems like it weakens a Union's leverage.
There are too many artists working unpaid overtime, under exploitive conditions because the artist truly enjoys the work that they do, desire to pursue excellence and are afraid of losing their job. The overtime worked, isn't for overtime pay, rather, it's the artist attempt to keep their job (which consequently affects marriages and families).
One of the Union's solutions is to "build a culture where nobody works overtime until management agrees to pay for it" which is impractical in a mercenary workforce; however, if the Union organized its members not to work unpaid overtime until management agrees to pay (with documentation to back it), this could exact practical change.
Will Local 839 exact significant change in workplace conditions, favorable to both employer & employee?
If you could field these concerns, in an upcoming issue of Peg Board (but not Peg Board alone), it would be much appreciated!
Thank you for your time,
A Member of Local 839
Steve Hulett: Attending recent negotiations, I asked other union reps what their members faced with uncomped overtime. They told me it was an ongoing problem.
Uncomped o.t. has been rearing its head since the day I started as business representative. There's a variety of ways to combat it: Studio visits after hours; collective complaints and action by the crew; discussions with show runners. All of these have proven useful, but there is no one "magic bullet." I urge anybody who works uncompensated overtime to contact the office.