Friday, September 21, 2012

The Organizer

This day was Chuck Jones' birthday centennial, with tributes 'round and about.

It's widely recognized that Chuck was a great cartoon director and brilliant creative mind. But he also needs to be remembered for something else ...

Mr. Jones was also a determined force for the unionization of the animation industry. As Tom Sito relates in Drawing the Line:

[In May 1941], Leon Schlesigner responded to union agitation with a lockout of his Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies artists. When the first negotiations began, a Warner executive sneered at director Chuck Jones, "We're not a charity here!"

Chuck was stung by the disrespectful remark from a member of management for whom he had worked with such dedication. Jones became one of the few animation directors to be wholeheartedly pro-union.

... Jones took a leadership role in the unionizing efforts at Warner Bros. This lockout lasted only six days, then Schelsinger surrendered "Our own little six day war," noted Jones. ...

But Chuck didn't stop being a union organizer when Warners was signed to a contract. Two months later, there was this during the long Disney strike:

"We are having a two-way motorcade Thursday at the Disney Studio. We need a lot of cars to start at each end of Buena Vista and drive slowly back and forth in front of the entrance. If the departure of the non-strikers is somewhat hindered by this maneuver it will too bad, of course. ..."

The first name on the list of volunteer car-drivers? Chuck Jones.

If you want to know why animation is represented by unions in Los Angeles, Chuck Jones is a major part of the reason. He understood on which side of the labor line he stood, and acted on that understanding. Seventy-one years after the "Six Day War," everyone who works in Cartoonland remains in his debt.


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