We get this question from time to time, typically from members who are (understandably) frustrated at the tendency of some studios to hire inexperienced newcomers when veterans are unemployed.
Some union contracts restrict hiring of inexperienced workers, others don’t. Under the Taft-Hartley Act, however, no union contract can require an employer to hire a union member in preference to a non-union member. That’s been illegal since 1947.
The Animation Guild, like SAG, the Writers Guild and some other IA locals, has no roster from which employees are supposed to be hired. TAG has a seniority clause in its contract, but that clause gives employers leeway in their hiring practices. Other IATSE unions have rosters from which employers hiring in union-represented categories are supposed to give preference for hiring.
The Animation Guild has never had a roster system. When Local 839 was founded in 1952, the original contract didn’t have one, most likely because the Screen Cartoonists Guild, TAG’s rival at the time, also had no roster. A roster has to be set up with the agreement of the employer to hire from it; otherwise it gives no protection to members. At worst, history has shown that in some unions the roster can be a source of corruption, when the union officers who run the roster arbitrarily exercise the power to determine whether a member will be allowed to work or not.
The IATSE rosters are honestly run and, as they now exist, are far more open than they were twenty-plus years ago. At that time, rules were stringent for getting on union rosters, and a large non-union workforce that didn’t qualify for roster placement developed.
By the late 1980s, the numbers of disaffected “off roster” film workers became almost overwhelming. And movie production companies were happy to use them because they were less expensive. The non-union workers disliked the IA for locking them out of union work in the first place ... and were therefore almost impossible to organize. By 1990, over 40% of movie production work was non-union. And IA unions with rosters were forced to relax their rules for entry in order to survive.
So this “keep the newcomers out” thing has its downside. Younger workers are going to get into the business, union or non-union, roster or no roster. For any union to try to keep them out is not only impossible but self-defeating, since those workers will someday be the members that we rely on to keep our unions alive and thriving.