Friday, December 15, 2006

A National Labor Relations Board Vote

Since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was signed into law by FDR, workers have had the right to organize. Over the years, the act has been twisted, stomped and mutilated, but its core idea remains the same: workers can organize their place of employment under a collective bargaining agreement and be represented by a union, and they can't be fired or disciplined for exercising that right...

Well, that's the law, but the ground-zero reality is something else again. In recent years (like, say, the last thirty), plenty of workers seeking union representation have been fired for their union activities. (Just ask employees at Wal-Mart). Not a big mystery, then, why the percentage of workers repped by labor organizations has fallen during the last three or four decades.

Happily, the strength of unions in motion picture and television land is a lot better than other places. The IATSE (our parent union) covers something around 90% of movie and t.v. work, and its subset TAG comes close to the same percentage in Los Angeles County. (We're not a national union.) Because of this dense representation, animation artists have come to expect their wages to be competitive and health and pension benefits to be part of the deal.

When wages and benefits aren't up to snuff, we often get calls. This was the case with a small studio in Hollywood that's turning out a series of direct-to-video CGI features. Employees there wanted benefits, phoned us, and we sent them representation cards. When we got signed cards back, we petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. (This sounds simple, but it's pretty time-consuming.)

Long story short: Today we got to the election stage of the process. An NLRB agent came to the studio, set up a booth, and the animation employees voted. When the ballots were counted, what to our wondering eyes did appear but 100% of the vote in favor of the Animation Guild.

Now. That's an unusually high figure, but it doesn't mean we can immediately take a victory lap with our arms in the air. It means we are on the cusp of the negotiating stage of the proceedings, wherein the company is required to sit down and bargain with the union "in good faith" for a collective bargaining agreement.

This doesn't always lead to a new contract. Sometimes it leads to many negotiating sessions with no agreement at the end, but today we are a hell of a lot closer to a contract than we were 24 hours ago. We'll keep you posted...


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