Monday, August 17, 2015

The Old Mail Bag

The morning e-mail brings the following*:


What is it you do exactly for the Union?

The more I speak to other members the more I ask myself this question. It's not a question in haste or anger etc but an honest one. I hear of lack of compassion and empathy for the struggling members and desire to "not get involved" with legit mistreatment of members due to political ties etc etc...

This is extremely hard to understand. Is it a faction to only collect money from members offering no real protection to matters you state are "the Unions" responsibility??. Dues should come with iron clad promises given us by the "union" and we as members need to make officers in charge responsible for promises unkept, no?...

How is it that you stay in your position with years of unhappiness from members about what the "Union" does not nor will not do to help members??...Sad to see that this establishment is just as topsy turvy as our state's and country's government!!!!...Plus, I see and hear some officers are using their positions to stay employed. Very maddening!!!...

Sorry to go off course a bit but I feel we need to address many , many more problems that are currently being overlooked because of personal agendas. ...

To which Steve replied*:

Thanks for the inquiries. I’ll try to answer them as best I can. My day to day, week to week work around here looks like this:

I go to three to five studios a week, doing walk-throughs, asking if anyone has problems, questions about the 401(k) Plan, Health Plan, Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, etc. (We have three pension plans). That’s been Job #1 for the past twenty years. The other purpose of the walk throughs is to check on contract violations.

Recently at [redacted], I went through the studio late at night looking for artists doing uncompensated overtime and filed grievances when I found some. The same thing occurred last year at [redacted]. People were working without pay on a Saturday, and we got those artists paid for the work. We also got the crew on [redacted] dismissal pay that the studio was not paying.

I also spend a lot of time advising new artists about how to get into the business, talk to members about strategies for getting jobs and staying employed, that kind of thing. I started in the biz in 1976, when I was hired by Disney as a trainee in the feature story department. I’ve been serving on the Animation Guild’s executive board as Vice-President, board member and Business Representative since 1983.

Other things the Guild does? We review immigration visas, we do lots of 401(k) enrollment meetings. But a lot of what we do around here is education. We have a huge number of people taking storyboard, life drawing and animation classes here at the Guild. And Steve Kaplan, Guild organizer, has set up lots of subsidized classes for active members through CSATF, and we regularly send out job listings to members on our e-mail list. We also hold regular “new member lunches” to explain the pension and health plans, so that newbies know how to choose the best health coverage for themselves. We just wrapped up a new contract.

[A Guild member], who you might remember from [studio name redacted], was instrumental in getting big improvements (30%) in the contribution hours for freelance board artists and [improvements for] timing directors. We also got a 10% bump-up in the pension payouts, as well as 9+% pay increases over three years. (We started planning these negotiation[s] nine months before they were held. We had multiple craft meetings from January to May, negotiation committee meetings that started in September and ended when the contract talks ended on July 1st. By the way, we invited every member, active or not active, to participate on the committee, and thirty folks participated in the planning and/or the talks themselves.)

How do I stay in my position? I guess it’s because a lot of members know me and vote for me at election time, but you’d be correct that some members are unhappy with me at any given moment in time. So you know, I’ve run against an executive board member and a former Guild President and beat both of them by 20-30%. I’m elected by the entire active membership, got elected the first time in 1989 when I ran against the incumbent business representative and beat him by a wide margin. I’ve been running for this office, elected by the membership, for 25+ years but won’t be running again, as I’m retiring next year.

Lastly: I would disagree that serving as a union officer helps anybody get or keep a job. Several ex-presidents of the Animation Guild would tell you it’s hurt them in the business, but I don’t want to put words in their mouths so I’ll leave it at that. ...

I’ve said for years that members who want to make a difference in the running of the Guild can have a big impact by coming to General Membership Meetings and letting their voices be heard. They can run for office, they can volunteer for committees. It’s my observation that members get out of the organization what they put into it. You’re certainly free to attend membership meetings, even though your currently inactive.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions. Feel free to call me if you want more information.

Steve Hulett

* Individual names and studio names redacted, some text re-paragraphed for ease of reading, and one cut (...) in Hulett's response has been made. Kindly ignore Hulett's lackluster prose. He was banging out an e-mail and didn't revise much. (Obviously).


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