Last night I was privileged to participate in the VFX Townhall on IATSE. I sat on the panel with representatives from Locals 600, 700, 800 and 871, as well as Dave Rand, outspoken pro-union VFX artist, and 839 members Jason MacLeod and Brock Stearn.
The discussion also included satellite locations in Vancouver where Local 891 Executive Board member and Organizer Dusty Kelly held a similar panel with representatives and members from Locals 669 and 891, in San Rafel, CA at 32 Ten Studios where members of the local VFX community gathered, and Diana Wells from Montreal who spoke eloquently about the troubles with New Breed Studios and her desire for change.
The one takeaway I hope vfx artists got from the meeting is that the IATSE is ready and able to support them in their desire for meaningful change. However, it is up to those same artists to be the drivers of that change.
VFX Supervisor Gregory Lemkin tweeted the following message which was read by Kaitlyn Yang (2:04:30 in the above linked video):
"Two of the best opportunities to unionize in the history of VFX occured in Los Angeles in the past six months, Digital Domain and Rhythm and Hues, what did the IA do?"
My answer embodies the current state of VFX organizing, everywhere. There hasn't been a time in history when organized labor is more aware of the plight of visual effects artists and ready to help. Meetings both public and private are taking place, blogs and websites are dedicated to educating and information dissemination, authorization cards are being distributed and (some) returned. However, the next palpable step in the formation of a VFX Local in the IATSE lies solely with those who would populate that local.
The IA did what the IA will continue to do with regards to the organization of Visual Effects: support YOUR effort to make that change.
IATSE International Representative Vanessa Holtgrewe wrote a piece called "The Evolution of Momentum" for the vfxunion.com page. In that writing, she addresses the need for the vfx community to act in their own interests in order to move the organization effort forward:
Now that we’ve marched, spoken to the press, changed our Facebook profile picture to green, now what do we do? How do we get a seat at the table, sitting across from our employers, with a unified voice?
The answer is both simple and very much not so: You organize.
[The IATSE] can’t walk into your workplace and order your boss to sign a union contract so you can have health, pension and enforceable working conditions. We need your support to help you organize. To be successful, consensus among the majority of your co-workers must be established. That support is built from inside by people, such as yourself, helping to educate and build a strong base of employees eager for a voice in the workplace. We will help you go through that process every step of the way.
The next step in this process is for VFX artists to submit their information on the online repcard page, or fill out a repcard and send it back to the IATSE. Repeat that process at each new workplace. Speak to your peers, ask questions and share information.
The IATSE is ready, capable and willing to support your efforts to change the vfx industry for the better. It has a large amount of leverage of its own that it can bring to bear the up-coming fight. But, visual effects community, the fight belongs to you to undertake.