Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wages in Toonland (Deux)

A couple of days ago, I was lunching with a Wise Old Studio Exec who is now happily retired from the studio grind. (He worked at a lot of animation studios in a three-decade career, but he enjoys his new occupation of smelling the roses.)

I mentioned to him that the Animation Guild is now in the middle of its 2007 Wage Survey (see our previous post and survey here), mailing out forms and getting them back. I also mentioned how frustrating it is when people don't return the forms. He said brightly:

"Oh yeah, wage surveys. The last studio I worked for got wage breakdowns for all the big animation studios. It was always good to know what artists were making at all the different houses. Helped keep us from overpaying anybody."

Overpaying anybody. Neato. Wouldn't want to do something awful like that, now would we? What with all the paltry salaries studios execs make.

I'd always known that studios knew what their employees were making, but here was testimony about how they also knew what employees earned at competing studios. (Everything is available...for a fee.)

Which makes it kind of baffling why some artists in the business are still reluctant to share wage information. (Actually, it's not so baffling. Various studios thump out a steady drumbeat of intimidation about not revealing info. Even though Sections 232(a), (b) and (c) of the California Labor Code prohibit employers from requiring as a condition of employment that employees refrain from disclosing wages, forcing employees to sign a waiver of the right to disclose wages, or discharging, disciplining of discriminating against employees who disclose wages.)

But I'm still hopeful that employees will empower themselves, despite the muttered threats around town. And I've reason for hope. To date, TAG has received over 550 surveys from our '07 mailing, and when all of them are tabulated, we'll share the results here and on TAG's web site.


Anonymous said...

I'm not up on the legal mumbo jumbo, but the idea of all these studios sharing their wage info with each other- doesn't this kinda violate some anti-trust law or something? I mean one could argue that competition for a product/service (ie: the artist's services) is being artificially managed by a number of competitors working in collusion. Or maybe that's a stretch. Still, I've known that studio HR dept heads have done this (share wage info) for years and I've always thought- gee, that smells sorta not legal-ish to me.

Steve Hulett said...

Ah. But they purchase wage information from a service that collects the data, you see.

Free enterprise marches on.

Anonymous said...

Could not the TAG purchase that also?

Chris Battle said...

Anon: Why would the TAG want to spend union funds (that could be benefitting it's members) to purchase the info when they can get it for free?

All it takes is a little participation, guys.

Anonymous said...

Why do the companies need to purchase the information when they can just look at the union surveys?

Anonymous said...

Trust me, the producers shared notes on you all looongg before the wage survey existed. Go to Ventura and Sepulveda in Sherman Oaks, go a little further under the freeway and you'll see a large two-story pink office complex. Thats the AMPTP Building, the Bosses Unionhall. For all you who want to go it alone, realize they all meet there regularly. And not to talk about the Lakers chances.

Anonymous said...

Why do the companies need to purchase the information when they can just look at the union surveys?

Two years ago, we had a 25.7% overall response to the survey. Last year, I'm glad to say, it improved to 33.6%, and it looks like this year it'll be better.

But it still isn't anywhere near good enough. Last year, only 25% of TDs and compositors responded, and 29% of layout, bg, animation and modellers.

The less response we get, the less accurate and credible are our numbers ... especially compared to the employers who, as Steve has shown, know what 100% of us are making.

Think about it. If you've worked at a Guild shop in the last twelve months and didn't get a survey or missplaced it, e-mail me at or call (818) 766‑7151 ext. 104 and I'll get one out to you.


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