... A California federal judge has handed DreamWorks Animation, The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures and Blue Sky Studios a big setback in an antitrust lawsuit that examines the way that studios allegedly colluded to deny workers in the visual effects community better work opportunities and better compensation.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied defendants' motion to dismiss an amended complaint just four months after she ruled that claims were barred by the statute of limitations. This time, she determines that the plaintiffs have sufficiently added details to their complaint to have adequately pled that the conspiracy was fraudulently concealed.
I get asked from time to time what I think of the wage suppression thingie. My answer:
Yeah, I believe the studios were colluding. Ed Catmull and George Lucas are on record in depositions acknowledging that the practice went on. My experience with studios is they work to hold down wages all the time, in a variety of ways. Having a pact with other studios would just be one of the ways, one of the arrows in their big, fat quivers.
I don't believe that management, by and large, thinks there's anything much wrong with this. Years back, when Human Resource people at Disney Feature were telling individual employees that it was forbidden to share wage information, they only (slightly) backed off when some employees pointed out this was against state law: "Okay, I ... ahm ... hear what you're saying. Well we would prefer and really appreciate if you would keep your salary to yourself."
When I went to management to complain (this was in the early 90s), the Veep that I whined to said: "Hey, until somebody takes us to court, we're fine with doing this."
Happily, the policy changed when a Vice-President -- who was a lawyer -- later called me to say: "Okay, we're taking the wage disclosure prohibition out of Personal Service Contracts. You're right about that."
The name of the game, always, is to get the most work for the least cost. The wage conspiracy is just an extension of the overarching policy that is always in place. ...